If city leaders want to see the Red Line built they really don't have to look too far to find the answer ("City leaders remain dedicated to fighting for Red Line," July 1).

Under the administration of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. there was a realistic and affordable Red Line plan on the table centered on using Bus Rapid Transit as the mode of service. Unfortunately, after Mr. Ehrlich was defeated for re-election, incoming Gov. Martin O'Malley was advised to go with light rail as the preferred option for the Red Line.


From that point on, many shortcuts and compromises were proposed in an effort to squeeze a square light rail project into a round hole of affordability.

To highlight one area, take a look at the Cooks Lane segment of the project. At first the plan called for two trains running alongside normal traffic on the surface of Cooks Lane. That was later followed by an ill-advised single-track tunnel, which brought about safety concerns along with the unpleasant thought of having trains sitting on either side of the tunnel while another train occupied the tunnel.

Finally, a sensible double-track tunnel was incorporated into the plan. However, by doing the right thing for Cooks Lane and other segments of the Red Line, the cost of the project spiraled out of control.

Other changes that have been incorporated even more recently include the routing of the trains as they exit or approach Martin Luther King Boulevard, raising concerns about the possibility of damage to nearby homes. This rather last-minute, inartfully articulated change has resulted in a lawsuit against the state by some residents. Had Governor Hogan not pulled the plug on this project, there were bound to be more changes and ever-increasing costs.

So how do we improve east-west corridor service along the proposed Red Line route? In 2005 the Ehrlich administration introduced the limited stop QuickBus #40 route, which some refer to as "BRT-lite." The route was introduced, in part, to demonstrate the effectiveness of enhanced bus service, even without a full compliment of BRT technology.

By all measures — safety, ridership, farebox recovery and customer satisfaction — the QB40 has unquestionably been a public transit success story for this region. City leaders should endorse the development of a plan to have the MTA acquire a fleet of sleek new articulated bus vehicles, dedicated to limited-stop service along the Red Line route and enhanced by BRT technology that builds on the great success of the QB40.

In addition, if city leaders are a looking for an affordable, shovel-ready transit project that will produce lots of construction and long-term unionized jobs they should work with the governor on the already well-developed plans for an expansion of the current MTA Subway system to Morgan State University and beyond.

For some city leaders an expansion of the existing system will not be as sexy or politically satisfying as something brand new. But this is the project Baltimore City needs and one that the state can actually afford.

Chris Blake, Windsor Mill