Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz isn’t happy about his jurisdiction contributing to the construction of the Red Line, but in a letter to the state he offered to pay for 22 percent of the cost of construction in the county.
In the letter to James T. Smith Jr., secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, Kamenetz said the county would contribute $26.5 million toward the construction, but he first demanded to know what the contribution level would be from Baltimore and sought assurances the county portion of the construction would be a priority. He also wanted the state to disclose what contributions are being asked from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties for the Purple Line.
“There has been much debate and discussion about whether there is enough funding to complete the project as planned, and I must protect Baltimore County taxpayers as we move forward to ensure that the county portion is completed in a timely manner,” Kamenetz wrote.
The Red Line is a proposed 14.1 mile light rail route that would run from Woodlawn in Baltimore County to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in East Baltimore. The project is expected to cost $2.6 billion.
Currently the state, Baltimore and Baltimore County are negotiating how much each jurisdiction will contribute to the project. According to state budget documents, the state is seeking $250 million in regional funds for the project.
A source with knowledge of the negotiations said the state wants the county to cover $50 million of the regional funds it’s seeking and the city would pay the rest.
The same budget documents show the federal government is expected to contribute 35 percent of the cost of the construction and the state would cover 45 percent.
In the letter Kamenetz makes it clear that he’s not happy about the county being expected to contribute to the Red Line because the route, as initially conceived, did not require local funds.
“Regrettably, it is becoming increasingly evident that the fiscal formula for the completion of the project has changed now requiring a significant local match,” Kamenetz wrote in the letter.
Donald I. Mohler, a spokesman for the county executive, said the county is a “strong supporter of the project” and that officials recognized the possible economic impact.
“We support the project but we also have a fiduciary responsibility to protect county taxpayers,” Mohler said.
Proposals for the Red Line go back about a decade ago. It’s viewed as a major step toward making the Baltimore metro area better connected by mass transportation. Currently the only light rail line in the metro area runs between Glen Burnie and Hunt Valley, but there’s no rail connecting east and west.
Some experts believe the light rail line could provide an economic boost to troubled West Baltimore neighborhoods where stations are planned. Some of that optimism is reflected in the University of Maryland, Baltimore considering building market-rate apartments above a planned underground light rail station at its BioPark.
Daily Record business reporter Bryan P. Sears contributed to this article.