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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake speaks Wednesday. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Rawlings-Blake to Hogan: Reconsider Red Line

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she continues to be disappointed in Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to kill the Red Line light rail transportation program.

The mayor and other officials, in a six-page letter, have asked Hogan to reconsider the project.

“A world-class transit system is a necessity, it is not optional,” Rawlings-Blake said.

The mayor, joined by elected and civic officials including Rep. Elijah Cummings, state Sen. Catherine Pugh, Del. Curt Anderson and Greater Baltimore Committee President Chief Executive Officer Donald C. Fry, called for the governor to meet to discuss the project in hopes of convincing Hogan to change his mind.

The 14.1-mile long Red Line proposal was designed to connect Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center with Woodlawn in Baltimore County. Hogan last week characterized the project, which included a $1 billion tunnel under the city, as a “boondoggle.”

Rawlings-Blake and others said building the project would bring much needed jobs and economic development to the city.

In his announcement, Hogan said the project, with a current projected overall cost of $2.9 billion, could not go forward in its present form.

Rawlings-Blake and other supporters are pinning their hopes of resurrecting the project on an inference that the governor is willing to compromise on some form of the project.

Pugh said the conversation with Hogan should focus on “how we move this project forward and in what form.”

Douglass Mayer, a spokesman for the governor, said hopes of reinstating the light rail project are misplaced.

“As Gov. Hogan announced, the Red Line as currently designed will not be going forward – it was poorly designed and simply unaffordable with a price tag of at least $3 billion,” Mayer said. “The governor has made it very clear that he is willing to work with anyone committed to the fair and honest development of alternatives. Grandstanding and media one-upmanship won’t lead to better outcomes or solve any problems.”

Mayer said the “fatal flaw in the project was a tunnel, costing at least $1 billion, that went right through the heart of the city.”

The city’s hopes seem unlikely given that state Transportation Sec. Pete K. Rahn met with officials at the Federal Transit Administration to inform them verbally that the state intended to kill the Red Line project.

Mayer confirmed the meeting and said it would be followed by a more formal written acknowledgement of Hogan’s decision. Mayer said there is no immediate timeline for when that notice would be sent.

Additionally, the website for the project carries a message saying the state is archiving all information related to the project as well as terminating all agreements with local governments, reassigning staff and disposing of all related assets including real property.

Cummings said his preference is for the state to build the Red Line rather than search for other alternatives, and he said the state risks losing $900 million that could go to the project.

“The money is already committed,” Cummings said.

But that money has not been formally appropriated and would still require Hogan and the state to enter into a full funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration.

In lieu of reviving the project, Cummings said, the governor should at least present an alternative plan for the city.

“If he’s got something to help people get from place to place and create jobs in our city then I am all ears,” said Cummings.