Gov. Hogan's decision dashes dreams of hassle-free commute

If you've ever used the Baltimore Beltway in rush hour to get from Owings Mills to Social Security headquarters or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Woodlawn, you know it's a nightmare.

Stop-and-start backups all the way. It could take an hour or more.


Return commutes aren't any better.

A much-needed option has been in the works for 15 years — the Red Line, designed to speed commuters from the Owings Mills Metro Station or the Old Court Metro station in Pikesville to downtown. There, passengers could transfer to the east-west Red Line for speedy train trips to SSA or CMS stations in western Baltimore County.

It would take about the same time, but with no hassle, no wear-and-tear on your car and no infuriating waits in traffic with emissions from tailpipes polluting the air.

But that vision was shattered recently by Gov. Larry Hogan. He cancelled the Red Line project, which was ready to proceed with construction.

The $288 million already spent disappeared down the drain. Another $900 million in allocated federal funds for the Red Line will be redistributed to other U.S. cities waiting in line behind Baltimore.

Charm City is left with a big, fat zero.

Hogan has no Plan B. Rapid transit for this region is dead in the water.

Baltimore City gets hurt the most from Hogan's penny-wise, pound foolish action. Baltimore County, especially residents in the northwest and central parts of the county, are losers, too.

The Red Line was a critical connector route. It would have unified Baltimore's herky-jerky mass-transit lines, making it possible to travel quickly from Owings Mills not only to Woodlawn and Security Square Mall, but also to Johns Hopkins Bayview on the city-county eastern border.

Trips from our neck of the woods to trendy Canton, Highlandtown and Fells Point would have been possible without driving through downtown and trying to find a parking space near popular entertainment areas.

Yes, the Red Line would have been expensive to build. The only sensible way to take rapid transit through the downtown area is by tunnel.

That raises construction costs. Yet every urban center in the U.S. with a rapid rail system builds tunnels.

Why? Because they know this approach has lasting value. A century from now those tunnels would still be heavily used.

Hogan, though, made the high tunneling cost his excuse for killing the Red Line. He'd prefer to spend money on road-building projects in other parts of the state.


That's where Hogan's voters lie.

It's a shame metro Baltimore lacks a decent rapid-transit system similar to the ones in Washington and New York. In those cities you can use public transit to get around town.

Instead, we have inadequate bus service. Suburban routes are few and far between. Unless you live within walking distance of a major thoroughfare like Reisterstown Road, travel by bus isn't realistic.

That limits the ability of older county residents to run errands and remain in their suburban homes once they stop driving their car.

It also limits the ability of millennials — who don't wish to drive — to live or take jobs in the suburbs.

The only hope is that Hogan, having given the back of his hand to Baltimore, now will formulate an alternative program — perhaps busways or added service like the city's popular downtown circulator routes.

The Baltimore metro region can't stand still when it comes to mass transit. Giving residents more mobility options is essential if we want to improve this area's quality of life.

Barry Rascovar, of Reisterstown, writes a blog,, and can be reached at