Group re­news call to build Red Line

Coali­tion pro­poses train as part of statewide net­work

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND WORLD - By Colin Camp­bell cm­camp­bell@balt­­camp­bell6

Tran­sit ad­vo­cates sought to re­vive in­ter­est in the Bal­ti­more Red Line light-rail project on Tues­day by re­cast­ing it as one link in a statewide rail net­work that would run from Delaware to South­ern Maryland to West Vir­ginia while con­nect­ing the Bal­ti­more and Wash­ing­ton Metro sys­tems.

The newly formed Maryland Tran­sit Op­por­tu­ni­ties Coali­tion called on Gov. Larry Ho­gan to re­di­rect $8 bil­lion ear­marked for a high­way widen­ing project on I-270 and the Wash­ing­ton Belt­way to con­struct the Red and Pur­ple lines, fund the plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment of a $25 mil­lion South­ern Maryland Light Rail line and in­crease the fre­quency of the MARC com­muter trains.

Ho­gan has sup­ported the Pur­ple Line for the Wash­ing­ton Metro, but with­drew state fund­ing for the Red Line to con­nect East and West Bal­ti­more last year.

Ben Ross, who’s chair­ing the new coali­tion, said its mem­bers had been work­ing sep­a­rately to pro­mote lo­cal tran­sit projects for years — but now want to work to­gether on a statewide ap­proach.

“We de­vel­oped a plan,” said Ross, the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Ac­tion Com­mit­tee for Tran­sit in Mont­gomery County. For the same cost as a sin­gle high­way project that’s been pro­posed on I-270 and the D.C. Belt­way, we could build a tran­sit net­work all across Maryland from Elk­ton to Fred­er­ick, from Wal­dorf all the way to Tow­son.”

Ho­gan’s spokesman said: “Gover­nor Ho­gan was elected to bring a bal­anced ap­proach to trans­porta­tion, which in­cludes build­ing roads, bridges, and mass tran­sit. That is why the ad­min­is­tra­tion in­vested $2 bil­lion in trans­porta­tion projects across the state, while mov­ing for­ward with a more af­ford­able Pur­ple Line, and sup­port­ing in­no­va­tive pub­lic tran­sit ini­tia­tives like the new Bal­ti­moreLink bus sys­tem.”

The coali­tion is made up of the Ac­tion Com­mit­tee for Tran­sit, the Bal­ti­more Tran­sit Eq­uity Coali­tion, the Prince Ge­orge’s Ad­vo­cates for Com­mu­nity-based Tran­sit and the South­ern Maryland Al­liance for Rapid Tran­sit. Lo­cal politi­cians and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Sen. Ben Cardin’s of­fice at­tended the group’s news con­fer­ence Tues­day morn­ing out­side Bal­ti­more’s Penn Sta­tion.

Ross said coali­tion mem­bers will at­tend Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion road shows to make their case di­rectly to the pub­lic.

“Our ba­sic strat­egy is to make the pub­lic un­der­stand what the pos­si­bil­i­ties are here,” he said. “Over the next 10 to 20 years there will be sev­eral gover­nors. I think it’s more a mat­ter of what the pub­lic wants than who is in of­fice. Elected of­fi­cials re­spond to the pub­lic.”

Ho­gan, a Repub­li­can, pulled state fund­ing for the $2.9 bil­lion Red Line, the long-an­tic­i­pated east-west rail line that was planned to run across Bal­ti­more from Wood­lawn to Bayview. He called it a “waste­ful boon­dog­gle.”

At the same time, the gover­nor gave con­di­tional ap­proval to a slimmed-down Pur­ple Line project in the Wash­ing­ton sub­urbs that re­duced much of the state’s con­tri­bu­tion, leav­ing Prince Ge­orge’s and Mont­gomery coun­ties to pay more of the cost. The line would run from Bethesda through Sil­ver Spring and Col­lege Park to New Car­roll­ton.

The coali­tion asked the gover­nor to re­sume work on the Red Line and rein­tro­duce a decade-old MARC plan that would pro­vide all-day, two-way ser­vice be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Fred­er­ick and Cam­den Yards, and be­tween Bal­ti­more and points north such as Aberdeen, Elk­ton and Delaware.

Del. Brooke Lier­man said bet­ter pub­lic tran­sit has far-reach­ing ef­fects, such as in­creas­ing employment op­por­tu­ni­ties that ben­e­fit the over­all econ­omy and re­mov­ing con­ges­tion caused by sin­gle-oc­cu­pant, com­muter ve­hi­cles from Maryland’s roads.

South­ern Prince Ge­orge’s County is “a traf­fic night­mare,” county Coun­cil­man Mel Franklin said.

“We’re not go­ing to be able to build enough high­ways to keep up with the grow­ing pop­u­la­tion,” said Franklin, a Demo­crat.

State Sen. Jim Ros­apepe, who rep­re­sents parts of Prince Ge­orge’s and Anne Arun­del coun­ties, blamed traf­fic on I-95 for mak­ing him late to the news con­fer­ence.

“If this pro­gram had been in ef­fect, I wouldn’t’ve been late,” the Demo­crat said. “I would’ve been here. I could’ve walked from my house to the Pur­ple Line sta­tion in Col­lege Park, taken the Pur­ple Line to New Car­roll­ton, got­ten the MARC train and got­ten off right here at Penn Sta­tion.”

Ros­apepe said his sub­ur­ban con­stituents’ big­gest com­plaint is that they can’t get to jobs.

“Some­times, tran­sit is pos­tured as an ur­ban-ver­sus-sub­ur­ban is­sue. Not true,” he said. “The ma­jor ben­e­fi­cia­ries of get­ting a 21st-cen­tury tran­sit sys­tem in this state are go­ing to be sub­ur­ban work­ing fam­i­lies.”

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