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Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Rawlings-Blake, Kamenetz detail contributions to Red Line

The executives of Baltimore and Baltimore County revealed Tuesday what they are willing to pay to complete the controversial proposed Red Line light rail project.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced their jurisdictions would be willing to pay $230 million and $50 million, respectively, to complete the 14.1 mile route that is planned to run from Bayview Medical Center to western Baltimore County.

“Baltimore cannot grow without world class transit. To build a world class transit system, we cannot afford to think small about our challenges – we have to think big and that’s what the Redline represents. This $230 million investment, achieved with no tax or fee increases on residents, will be a driver for community development and neighborhood revitalization while bringing more than 4,000 jobs to the city,” Rawlings-Blake said in a news release.

The city has a agreed to contribute $230 million toward the $2.6 billion construction of the Red Line. That total will include $80 million in cash contributions that involve $5 million a year for 10 years from Federal Highway Administration Funds and will match federally funded projects with state toll credits in exchange for cash at a cost of $6 million annually over five years.

The contribution total also includes $58 million in waiver fees, $52 million in utility construction and relocation, $26 million in capital projects and $14 million in property acquisition and relocation costs.

In an Aug. 26 letter, Kamenetz promised to provide $50 million in contributions, much of which is in the form of in-kind projects, as long as the state requests fit within the county’s budget constraints.

“Moving forward, Baltimore County will meet the $50 million request, but only consistent with our existing budgetary planning process and debt ratio constraints,” Kamenetz wrote.

Included in the county’s latest proposal is a promise to make $17 million in in-kind contributions in fiscal 2016. Of that, approximately $11 million is earmarked for related storm water management and remediation. Another $6 million would be used for right of way access, realignment of Security Boulevard as well as traffic signals and water and sewer line relocation.

In fiscal 2018, the county would contribute $5 million in cash and then increase that to $5.6 million over the next five years beginning in fiscal 2019.

Kamenetz said the county could alter or terminate the arrangement should the federal government fail to provide $900 million in expected funding or if the “extension into Baltimore County fails to materialize.”

“Should there be future reviews regarding value engineering for this project, we respectfully request, as funding contributors, to participate in decisions how costs might be further contained,” Kamenetz wrote.

The amount of funding agreed to in the letter is nearly double the amount Kamenetz promised earlier this year.

The state was seeking $200 million in local funds from the city and $50 million from the county to help pay for the project. In July, Kamenetz said his jurisdiction was willing to pay $26.5 million.

Kamenetz continued to express disappointment in having to contribute to the project, which was initially going to be paid for with state and federal transportation funds.

“While I realize that you are not responsible for the change in funding structure that now requires a local match, I must reiterate that the first time I learned of the non-in-kind contribution request was during our March 5, 2014 meeting in Annapolis,” Kamenetz wrote in a letter to Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary James T. Smith Jr., who served as Baltimore County executive before Kamenetz.

Kamenetz wrote that the county had previously understood that “a general, non-specific request for in-kind contribution only was being made.

“During this interim, Baltimore County made a substantial commitment to increase our debt ratio in order to fund a record $1.1 billion in school construction capital programming. Thus, I continue to be disappointed that local governments are now expected to contribute to this project when that was never explained to us during any of the planning stages of the Red Line,” Kamenetz wrote.

Councilman Bill Henry, chairman of the Housing and Community Development Committee, said he was briefed on plans for the city’s Red Line contribution prior to scheduling a vote on the project’s franchise ordinance. He said he wanted assurances the city’s contribution wouldn’t hinder the completion of other projects or result in increased taxes and fees.

“Personally I was comfortable with the breakdown in terms of the amount that we’re actually going to end up paying in cash over 10 years is not enough to concern me that it will inordinately affect our ability to do other needed infrastructure and capital programs.