State of the Red Line Campaign – February 2018

While the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition (BTEC) seeks additional principled support among legislators for our campaign to complete the Red Line, we have come to a point historically and politically in Maryland at which more specific, intentional strategies must be executed. For example, we are aware of the interest of the Maryland congressional delegation in the project. Cummings, Raskin, Van Hollen, Cardin have expressed support for the project. Nevertheless, they are not close to helping us finance the construction of the Red Line. (There is no Trump money for this project.) Theirs is only the “hope” of the stars aligning in our favor, i.e. a Democratic governor in November and a Democratic president in 2020. That is another way of saying “wait” when recent experience has already taught us that that scenario is not predictable. We have “waited” for Anthony Brown and we have “waited” for Hillary Clinton.

2018 will see BTEC distribute widely our solid evidence that Governor Hogan and Secretary Rahn deliberately misrepresent the costs and scope of the Red Line project to justify its cancellation as a “boondoggle.” In his testimony (Minutes 5:40 to 7:55) before the Maryland Senate on February 7, 2017, Rahn erroneously and knowingly speculated on the cost of the Red Line by comparing it to the cost of the B&P tunnel project. With its two-bore track system, the
$1.0 billion 3.4-mile Red Line downtown tunnel is a fraction of the cost of the $1.68 billion 1.9-mile B&P four-bore tunnel proposal. Rahn even stated falsely that a $200 million MARC Bayview station should have been included in the Red Line estimate. The Red Line project does not include MARC stations. The “boondoggle” claim has never been substantiated by Hogan or Rahn as is required by Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In July 2017 the Trump administration accommodated Hogan and Rahn by closing the Title VI complaint and investigation.

In order for the residents of the Baltimore metropolitan region to have more control of our own success in a project whose window of opportunity is steadily narrowing, BTEC has not simply made a demand for the completion of the Red Line, but we have also proposed a solution that meets the urgency, necessity, and suitability of the immediate construction of the project.

Baltimore cannot “wait” and watch 10,000 jobs evaporate while despairing of crime and poverty rates or sit by and let two of three jobs in the region remain 90 minutes or more away in any one-way commute. That’s transit-detention for the transit-dependent. We cannot speak hopefully of reducing unemployment and do nothing but “hope” when the Red Line was designed and approved to bring immediate access to an additional 250,000 jobs in the region
within 45 minutes. The additional $2.5 billion in new investments and 3,000 jobs conservatively estimated for the transit-oriented-development (TOD) projects along the completed Red Line corridor are not to be abandoned while “awaiting” the “best-case” scenario: Dem. governor,Dem. president.

The solution that we have proposed is one that vindicates our resolute dedication to the completion of the Red Line. The creation of a regional transportation authority (RTA) permits us to take a more assertive position in the pursuit of the Red Line, transit equity (social justice), and its transformative contribution to the regional and state economies. The RTA is empowered to raise funds for the completion of the Red Line. We offer another feature of an RTA that can be broadly supported. That is, rather than relying on raising taxes and imposing increased fees, etc., the RTA is also empowered to sell land and properties to generate the revenue needed to finance or pay directly for the completion of the Red Line. This is a common
feature of RTAs nationwide. Seattle, Portland, Denver, Los Angeles are good examples. It is this feature that needs to be considered well and supported in the coming few weeks as our proposed legislative agenda is shared and endorsed by a growing number of legislators. (Senate President, Mike Miller, Jr. supported a similar bill in 2014, SB772.)

In summary, the RTA brings local/regional autonomous control to transportation services and systems in the Baltimore region. In fact, the Board of the RTA can be elected at the polls – giving it immediate accountability to the residents in the region, Baltimore City and Baltimore County. It can be granted its fundraising and operational powers in the same legislative act in the current 2018 or 2019 session in Annapolis. This is as long as we can “wait.” We must act now or lose the project entirely. Let the RTA raise its own money and operate the transportation system according to the legislative bills that we would have informed, motivated lawmakers usher through the legislative process.

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