Baltimore officials are proposing a $100,000 forgivable loan to shipping giant Amazon to help compensate for the company's running its own shuttles to pick up employees.
The Board of Estimates, which is controlled by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, is expected to approve the deal Wednesday.
The money is needed because the state-run bus system is inadequate, city officials said.
The state's "regional transportation system, developed mainly to take people in and out of downtown, does not provide access to where the jobs are available now," said Susan Yum, spokeswoman for the Baltimore Development Corp., which proposed the loan. "From some parts of the city, the commute to some areas where there are jobs can be as long as 90 minutes each way."
In July, Amazon launched its own shuttles from Charles Center to its southeast Baltimore campus to supplement the bus system.
Amazon this year opened a 1 million-square-foot warehouse off Broening Highway. The company says it employs more than 3,500 regular, full-time workers there with average pay of more than $15 per hour.
Under the terms of the deal, the loan will be forgiven if the company continues to employ at least 1,600 full-time workers at the site through 2018.
The city and state helped lure Amazon to Baltimore through a more than $40 million incentive package. For the loans included in that package to be forgiven, the company must employ at least 1,000 people for 10 years and invest $175 million here.
City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who sits on the Board of Estimates, supports the deal, said his spokesman, Lester Davis.
"He's happy about the jobs," Davis said. "We have a lot of people who are qualified and want to work. We want to help them get access to jobs. This is pro-family, pro-Baltimore City."
Gov. Larry Hogan has acknowledged that the state-run bus system in Baltimore is "abysmal." In October, he announced what he called a "transformative" $135 million plan to improve it.
State transportation officials said a complete overhaul of the region's bus routes, including new high-frequency routes, would be completed by June 2017. Changes to bus routes have to go through a public hearing process, but the plan does not require a vote In the General Assembly.
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