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Schaefer saw the need for mass transit and acted on it

Your recent editorial on the proposed Red Line enjoyed the benefits of hindsight but failed to sketch in the historical context of the project ("Derailing Maryland light rail," March 20).

As governor, William Donald Schaefer never shied away from the need to invest in infrastructure. He understood its link to economic development.

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Two separate transportation tax increases occurred during his administration. The results can be observed across Maryland.

Competitive regions around the world invest in fixed rail regional transportation. If anything, our region is behind the curve today. Former Governor Schaefer took office to find only one Metro line and inertia when it came to pushing toward a regional fixed rail system.

Nearly a generation had passed since the Metro opened, and the politics of the day made any discussion of extending it into Anne Arundel County taboo. Scant planning had occurred for what was then referred to as the northern central line.

Our region was staring at two generations passing with no transit investment. Into the breach came Mr. Schaefer — imposing his will, taking political risks and cashing in considerable political capital to proceed with the newly defined central light rail line.

Were hurried decisions necessary? Yes. Were compromises made in order to proceed? No doubt. But would our region be better off today having gone some 40 years without a meaningful light rail line? Doubtful.

The crucible of making major public policy decisions with predictable political consequences poses a severe test for any governor. I wish Gov. Larry Hogan wisdom as he faces his own set of decisions.

Mark Wasserman, Baltimore

The writer served as William Donald Schaefer's chief of staff.

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