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Hogan should downsize the Red Line

The election's over. Reality defeated rhetoric. The proposed light rail Red Line is one of the broken legacies which Governor-elect Larry Hogan must resolve ("A to-do list for Hogan," Nov. 9).

The rhetoric was set forth in the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance's election-eve op-ed ("Better Baltimore transit, better future" Nov. 3). It claimed the Red Line would make the system "comprehensive." It won't. The existing Metro and light rail would remain disconnected.

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It also said we need a "Downtown Transit Center," which is a "linchpin," but is "unfunded." But there's no provision for that anyway.

It said "major funding" is "already committed." But as Transportation Secretary Jim Smith recently acknowledged, even if the proposed federal share of $100 million per year is approved by the next Congress, he has "no idea" how the gap to the full $3 billion (and rising) cost can be filled.

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Fortunately, a smaller Red Line is actually far better. The proposed downtown tunnel — an overwhelming two-thirds of the entire project's hard construction cost — is what requires circumventing the existing rail lines. Eliminating this expensive tunnel would enable the Red Line to meet the Metro and light rail at their Lexington Market stations to create the needed "linchpin" transit center.

A smaller Red Line can be built faster, with no local contributions from city and county taxpayers, and no long-term debt disguised as a "public-private partnership."

The transit center would then be the launching pad for building future phases, as money and plans are approved. It would maximize the value of all of them, most notably the Metro, which will remain by far the fastest and highest capacity transit mode, and a network of streetcars, the most community and development-friendly mode.

After all, the entire system defines the quality of a city's transit, not just one narrow corridor.

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Gerald Neily, Baltimore

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