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A map of the ill-fated Red Line, which the state Department of Transportation says will not be built. (file)

Rawlings-Blake optimistic Gov.-elect Hogan won’t block Red Line

Republican has criticized $2.9 billion mass transit project

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is still hopeful the proposed Red Line will be built despite opposition to the project by Gov.-elect Larry Hogan.

Hogan, who beat Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Tuesday by pulling in 53 percent of the vote, made his antipathy toward the $2.9 billion rail line known on the campaign trail, although he softened his stance in recent weeks, arguing the state should delay the project in favor of making road repairs.

Despite the incoming administration’s disdain for the project Rawlings-Blake told reporters Wednesday that she hopes the proposed 14.1 mile track that would extend from West Baltimore County to East Baltimore via tunnel through downtown would be built.

“I certainly hope that the key programs and projects that are going on in Baltimore will continue to make progress. We have the Red Line that I think is vital to the future of this city, 21st Century schools that is essential to the future of this city, and my hope is that the new administration will work with us to make sure the entire state moves forward,” Rawlings-Blake said.

Rawlings-Blake went on to say that she intended to reach out to Hogan later in the day, but that she was unsure how the change in administration would impact her goals for the city.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to work together to move the city forward. I think the city is crucial and vital as a part of the state. My hope is that we will have some shared priorities we can work on,” she said.

Despite Hogan’s more conciliatory tone on the Red Line recently, and the mayor’s hopes to work with the new administration, some Republicans are advocating for the governor-elect to at least halt spending on the project temporarily.

“Big projects, where some spending can be delayed, I think should be delayed until the governor gets his arms around the budget. Because the people expect him to show fiscal prudence, and I think that part of that is to say ‘Look we have to re-prioritize everything from the top to the bottom,’” Rep. Andy Harris said.

Even some Democrats, such as Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, restated his concerns about the expense of the project and said that his county has significant road and highway construction issues that require additional funding.

“When talking about the Red Line, you have to start by talking about what we all can agree on and that is the fact that we do need to focus on modern mass transit that can move large numbers of people from point A to point B without using an automobile. While supportive of the Red Line, I’ve consistently raised concerns about its increasing cost,” Kamenetz said in an emailed statement. ”If Governor Elect Hogan has some other ideas regarding mass transit that he believes would be just as effective but less expensive and more affordable for taxpayers, I would be very interested in discussing those concepts.”

In August Baltimore and Baltimore County announced they would contribute $230 million and $50 million respectively to the project. In total federal, state and local funding would cover $1.8 billion of the project and the rest would conceivably be covered via public and private partnerships.

When the local funding levels for the Red Line were announced, Maryland Transportation Secretary James T. Smith Jr. said the biggest obstacle to the project receiving funding was whether Congress would pass President Barack Obama’s proposed budget that includes $100 million for the project and a recommendation for a full funding grant agreement that would increase contributions from the Federal Transit Administration to $900 million.

But after Tuesday’s election results, the project apparently has a new obstacle to overcome.

About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.