Gov.-elect Larry Hogan has made conflicting comments regarding Baltimore. He has stated that Baltimore should be a driver of statewide economic prosperity. He has also said that Baltimore is "in decline." While Baltimore certainly has its issues, we are not in decline. People with the means to live where they choose are moving into the city. Developers are starting more and more residential and retail projects to support and attract these same people. In order to allow for smarter, non-automotive-based transportation options, this city must invest in a variety of alternatives. In order for us to move forward, we need Mr. Hogan's support. Mr. Hogan must be pressured to put our money where his mouth is.
Specifically, I am asking that he support Baltimore's Red Line light rail project ("Red Line: Time to start building," Jan. 14). Every great city has a comprehensive, rail-based transportation network. If this project is coupled with a revitalized bicycle lane network, we would have a modern, truly world class commuter network. Red Line designers have worked with the Baltimore cycling community to ensure that the system would work for cyclists. Not only does rail remove cars from the streets, it also removes bus traffic.
The Red Line, as planned, is one of the most important public transportation projects in the nation, and it will be one of the most effective, in terms of travel time benefits, cost effectiveness, and projected economic impact. It has been recognized as such through the Federal Transit Administration's rigorous New Starts program. I believe that our current, disjointed rail system is underutilized. By connecting the Metro subway, the Central Light Rail and MARC systems, we will finally achieve what Baltimore has sought for decades: an integrated, regional rail transit network. The addition of a more comprehensive bike path network will help to deal with the "last mile" problem that all public transportation systems have.
Additionally, commuter rail stations attract development. Transit-oriented development projects are underway along the MARC Line between Baltimore and Washington. The Red Line will attract similar, viable private investment in the city. This will help Baltimore to become the economic driver that Governor-elect Hogan claims to hope for. My understanding is that a developer is looking at the Crown Cork & Seal building in Greektown. I suspect that they will wait until the Hogan administration commits to the Red Line before they commit to the project.
The Red Line is a jobs line: it is expected to create nearly 10,000 jobs during its construction period and is projected to provide access to more than 200,000 jobs within the next 15 years — approximately 73 percent of all jobs forecast in the city by 2030. Additionally, it will encourage the revitalization of many older Baltimore neighborhoods on both the West and East sides.
In short, the Red Line will provide access to hundreds of thousands of jobs, will pump billions of dollars into the regional economy, and will help make Baltimore and its neighborhoods more sustainable and desirable. The result will be an improved tax base. As a result, the states portion of this project can be considered an investment. Not only to attract private investment, but to capitalize on the federal money that has already been spent or allocated.
This is a defining moment for Baltimore. I am asking that all who have an interest in the future of Baltimore pressure their elected officials to help seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our citizens and build an innovative transit system that is worthy of our great city. We must do whatever is necessary to secure funding and construction of the Red Line and deliver this project to Baltimore so that generations present and future will benefit.
Brian Sweeney, Baltimore