As representatives of some of the leading civil rights, labor and minority business communities in Baltimore, we all embrace the city’s enormous potential. We appreciate its great citizenry, recognize the challenging social conditions and bemoan the hemorrhaging of our population. We are also crystal clear about one critical issue — without attracting large numbers of family-sustaining jobs, many of Charm City’s problems will be hard to reverse.
That’s why the recent ruling by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals regarding Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail (BWRR), the developer of the high-speed Maglev train project, is particularly important (”Builder of high-speed maglev train wins appeal in battle over use of waterfront land in Westport,” March 7). Here, the state’s second highest court found that a Baltimore Circuit Court judge erred when determining that BWRR did not have condemnation authority. These rights are provided to BWRR as part of the railroad franchise approval process completed in late 2015. This means that the project continues to advance toward approval, and its proposed multi-billion dollars worth of employment wages and contract values remain viable.
Central to this legal challenge is a tension created by a housing developer, who knew the Maglev project was in the middle of the Federal Railroad Administration’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement process. The developer knowingly purchased critical land located along the route’s path north into Baltimore threatening to obstruct a vital site for the Maglev project.
As much as we all know how important good, safe housing is, we are certain that the city’s decline in residential population is not evidence of a housing shortage. We need more good-paying jobs with health care and retirement benefits to keep people here and help revitalize the city. These are the types of positions the Maglev could provide.
It should also be noted that the Maglev project is dedicated to keeping people in their homes. BWRR has committed to a route that is deep underground, allowing all existing residents to keep their houses. Further, the economic opportunities to both city residents and Marylanders will help avoid the housing displacement and inequity typically caused by development.
We also urge Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and officials in the Departments of Planning and Transportation to support and work proactively with BWRR and its unprecedented level of private investment in our city. BWRR also has laid out a robust plan to expand participation in the anticipated economic impact. BWRR also has laid out a robust diversity, equity, and inclusion framework to expand participation in the project. We should do all we can to assist BWRR, a Baltimore headquartered company, in delivering local benefits.
We support BWRR’s continued progress and anxiously look forward to the days not only when we can participate in the project and ride the Maglev, but see Baltimore uplifted by one of its homegrown companies willing to partner significantly with communities and make history along the way.
— Stephen Courtien is president of the Baltimore/D.C. Metro Building and Construction Trades Council.
— Kendrick Tilghman is president of the Greater Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce.
— Marco V. Ávila is chairman of the board of the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
— Larry Young is chairman of the board of the National Action Network Greater Baltimore Chapter.
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