Officials urge funding for Red Line

The Baltimore Sun

Mayor Sheila Dixon and Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. joined forces yesterday to urge the General Assembly to devote more funds for the Red Line transit project during next week's special session.

The two leaders spoke at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, the site of a proposed stop on the Red Line, which would provide an east-west transit line from Woodlawn to the Fells Point-Canton area.

"It's time for action on the Red Line," Dixon said in a statement. "The entire Red Line corridor has tremendous opportunities for community and economic development, but we need this transit project to act as a catalyst for smart growth."

The project is still in conceptual stages, and the mode of transportation along the corridor -- which may include buses, rail and new roads -- has not been determined.

Dixon and Smith did not ask for a specific dollar amount but want the state to step up its funding, which, combined with federal dollars, could fully fund the project.

The proposed project will cost more than $1 billion. The state has dedicated $239 million during the next six years for project planning, engineering and design and initial construction, said Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation. About $50 million of that is for construction.

Additionally, Gov. Martin O'Malley's transportation plan, to be taken up during the session, calls for adding $400 million a year to a transportation trust fund that would be used for all capital projects, including the Red Line, said Cahalan.

"Clearly, the Red Line project is a priority and has been identified as a priority by the local delegations and the city of Baltimore," said Cahalan. "But there are a number of other transit initiatives that are at similar points in the process ... so you've got a number of priority projects that are out there that are in need of funding."

Bayview President Gregory F. Schaffer also spoke about the need for the project, which would add a new East Baltimore MARC station next to the medical center.

Schaffer said the Red Line is an important part of the anticipated growth of the center, which is expected to add 5,000 jobs in the next five to 10 years. "The Red Line and MARC stop will give us a direct link to the Washington D.C. area," said Schaffer. "It's just very important."

Amy Menzer, executive director of the Dundalk Renaissance Corp., and Zelda Robinson, chairwoman of the West Baltimore Coalition, also spoke in favor of immediate funding for the project.

Alfred H. Foxx, Baltimore's director of transportation, said funding of the Red Line "is a top priority for transportation here in the region."

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