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Moving Baltimore forward [Commentary]

Baltimore City elicits genuine pride from its residents. Every neighborhood is unique, and generations of families have stayed here because they were not willing to give up on this great city.

After decades of population decline, Baltimore is finally growing again.

We did not get here by accident, nor did we get here by thinking small. I am determined to grow Baltimore by continuing to build projects that will sustain Baltimore well into the future.

Thousands of local jobs are being created through projects like the recently opened Horseshoe Baltimore Casino. The city has an internationally recognized blight elimination program. A new police contract will put more officers on the streets during peak periods of crime. And millions of dollars in new capital investments are flowing into city schools and recreation centers. Thanks in part to our city's first 10-Year Financial Plan, Baltimore recently received its first bond rating increase in seven years. Property taxes are declining, and we remain on track to see even more reductions over the next several years.

I believe Baltimore's future should be built around a world-class transit system that will spur economic development, create additional jobs, and attract and retain residents. The Red Line is a project that will move Baltimore forward.

My administration has identified $230 million in cash and in-kind contributions to advance this project — without imposing new taxes or fees on residents or adversely impacting any of our capital programming. Infrastructure repairs already in the pipeline will neither be delayed nor stalled in order to complete construction of the Red Line.

The Red Line is so much more than a transportation project. It will be a driver for community development and neighborhood revitalization, which will result in more than 4,000 construction and 200 permanent jobs for the city.

The Red Line will provide residents with direct access to over 100,000 jobs and several major employers in both Baltimore city and county, with connections to downtown Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical campus and the University of Maryland Bio-Park and Medical Center.

Residents and visitors will have easy access to Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium and other city attractions. These activities and other downtown destinations attract more than 12 million people every year and help to boost the local economy.

Additionally, concerted planning efforts are underway to prepare for potential retail and residential development along the Red Line corridor in neighborhoods such as Edmondson Village, Rosemont, Fells Point and Greektown.

Former Mayor William Donald Schaefer, a Baltimore icon, understood that our city's future was intimately tied to thinking big. Where some saw a dilapidated city filled with abandoned buildings and dying dreams, Mayor Schaefer saw a city of neighborhoods, filled with resilient people who were willing to work to turn the improbable into reality. Without his vision, Baltimore's Inner Harbor would not have become a world-class hub for tourism and a critical part of our city's economy.

Like Mayor Schaefer, we need to continue thinking big. The Red Line is a bold, transformative project that will change Baltimore City. Change can be difficult, but it is necessary for our city to grow.

There will always be naysayers and skeptics who say Baltimore cannot confront current challenges while also building for the future. They will ask how a cash-strapped city can afford to attract new residents while providing better services for those already in the city — the truth is: we can't afford not to!

Leadership requires vision beyond our present circumstances. We must keep our eye toward building big and growing the city while making sound business decisions to accomplish our goals. There is growing confidence in Baltimore as an economic hub, and a robust transit system is vital to ensuring that every neighborhood can access the benefits of the city's growth.

The Red Line will bring world-class transit to Baltimore City — and with it, jobs and a more connected, vibrant and livable city for our families.

Our spirit — our grit, determination, and charm truly set Baltimore apart, and someday, so will the Red Line.

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is mayor of the City of Baltimore; her email is

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