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Red Line anger simmers ahead of transportation meeting

Baltimore officials are making it clear they remain upset about the decision to kill the Red Line light rail route ahead of a meeting with transportation officials to discuss improving mass transit.

Officials, including Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn, are scheduled to meet Monday morning at Maryland Department of Transportation’s headquarters in Hanover. But local officials, just days ahead of the meeting, were still voicing their disappointment in Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision in late June to not pursue the 14.1-mile Red Line.

“We hope to hear some concrete ideas for what the Hogan Administration’s plans are to address mass transit issues in Baltimore City.  This is largely a state responsibility, and our hope is that the Hogan administration has a concrete plan other than simply saying no to the Redline (sic), and walking away from more than a decade of work developing a significant transit proposal for the Baltimore region,” Kevin Harris, a spokesman for the mayor, wrote in an emailed statement.

“Everyone knows that these are difficult issues, which makes it all the more odd that the Hogan Administration would step away from such a comprehensive plan without seemingly having a viable alternative in place.  Hopefully some specifics will come from this meeting so that we can move forward in a more productive fashion.”

The $2.9 billion Red Line proposal would’ve connected Woodlawn in western Baltimore County with Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in East Baltimore. Hogan, and members of his administration, justified dropping the route because of its cost — especially those associated with tunneling through downtown Baltimore.

Officials with the Rawlings-Blake administration aren’t the only ones making it known they remain upset about abandoning plans for the Red Line. State Sen. Catherine Pugh sent a letter to Rahn, dated Aug. 4, asking the secretary be prepared to discuss such issues as the methods the administration used to reach its decision to kill the Red Line, how the administration plans to preserve federal funding for the project and what alternatives exist to replace the light rail line project. State Sen. Katherine Klausmeier,  City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz are among the elected Democrats who signed Pugh’s letter.

The topics officials are set to discuss on Monday include improving Maryland Transit Administration’s on-time performance; developing better connections with employment hubs in the region; and increasing the percentage of the area’s population living within walking distance of transit.

About Adam Bednar

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