U.S. lawmakers press Hogan for city transit funding

Members of Congress from Baltimore seek clarity on Red Line funding questions.

Members of Baltimore's congressional delegation are pressing Gov. Larry Hogan's administration for detail about how much money the state will save by ditching the Red Line project, and why none of those savings are headed for transportation projects in the city.

In a letter to the governor's office Thursday, five members of Congress -- all Democrats -- have asked the Republican governor how much federal money the state plans to forgo by canceling the Red Line and also how the state intends to fund other projects it has planned for Baltimore transit in coming years.

The letter was signed by Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin as well as Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes. It came days after state Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn met with local and federal officials on the issue.

"We appreciated the opportunity to meet...however, we left the meeting uncertain about the exact amounts of money that your administration expects to invest in Baltimore's transit system," the lawmakers wrote.

"The citizens of Baltimore want to know that under your administration, Baltimore -- the beating heart of Maryland -- will get 'back on track' and be a place of 'unlimited promise.'"

A spokesman for Hogan said the state must first assess the city's need, and then affix a price tag.

"As discussed at length at Monday's meeting, the answer to improving transit in Baltimore isn’t a dollar figure but a realistic and effective plan that solves the longstanding issues which nearly everyone agrees upon," the spokesman, Doug Mayer, said in a statement. "If the real goal is to fix the transit system, then it is only logical to come up with a plan that actually does that and then determine the funding. Not the other way around."

State officials have sparred over exactly how much money will be left on the table after the project's cancellation. The Department of Transportation has said there will be no money left because of a series of new highway and bridge projects announced in other parts of the state. City officials believe that since the Red Line funding was initially earmarked for Baltimore, the city should receive some portion of the savings realized by its demise.

Hogan announced in June he was canceling the $2.9 billion Red Line project, which he described as a “boondoggle” and too expensive. The East-West light rail line across Baltimore was projected to create 4,000 construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs. Federal officials had pledged $900 million toward the project, which Rahn said the administration will tell Washington to spend elsewhere.

State officials have said there are long-term plans to spend another $1.5 billion on maintaining the city’s transit system — such as replacing 90 cars in the MTA's Metro Subway fleet and the 65-year-old bus maintenance and operation facility at the Kirk Bus Division. In the short term, they said, they will develop a plan for improvements to the city’s widely criticized bus system, which is run by the state.

"As reported in the Baltimore Sun, MDOT expects to present a plan for such improvements within the next two months," the lawmakers wrote. "What are the types of improvements under consideration, how much money does your administration plan to make available to implement these improvements, and how much of that sum will be derived from each of federal, state, and other sources?"

 

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