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Mayor, advocates rally for Red and Purple lines

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and more than a dozen elected officials from the Washington suburbs led a rally of transit advocates in  Annapolis Monday to call on Gov. Larry Hogan to fund the Red Line and Purple Line light rail projects.

The Hogan administration is weighing whether to cancel the two projects -- which together are estimated to cost more than $5 billion -- late in the federal funding process.

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The programs have received preliminary approval and a funding commitment of $900 million for each line from the Federal Transit Administration, but as a candidate Hogan argued that the state could not afford its share of the cost of building the projects. Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn is now studying the projects, saying he is looking for ways to trim costs before making a recommendation to the governor.

Rawlings-Blake said any attempt to modify the $3 billion Red Line, which would run from Bayview to Woodlawn, at this stage would be tantamount to killing it.

"The alternative is losing the project," she said. Transit experts say any change to the route or the the mode would set the project back years in the federal funding process, which can take a decade to fully navigate.

Rawlings-Blake said the project is needed for economic development and jobs in the city. She also said she knows of no other choices for improving traffic flow in the congested east-west corridor.

"I don't think there are any projects in Baltimore that could be or would be an alternative to the Red Line," she said.

While Rawlings-Blake spoke vehemently in favor of both the Red and Purple lines at the event, she was conspicuously alone among Baltimore elected officials. No members of the Baltimore city House or Senate delegations were announced as being in attendance, while more than a dozen elected officials from Montgomery and Prince George's counties joined the rally to support the Purple Line from Bethesda to New Carrollton.

There was a competing event in Annapolis in support of the funding for Baltimore schools. However, Del. Curt Anderson, a Democrat who chairs the city House delegation, said he was among only a handful of city lawmakers who attended that event. He said he didn't know why no city lawmakers were seen at the Red Line rally.

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