Despite former Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to shut down plans for the Red Line eight years ago, community efforts to create the east-west transit line persisted.
Those efforts paid off in mid-June when Gov. Wes Moore announced he was bringing the project back.
Samuel Jordan, president of the Baltimore Transit Equality Coalition, said before Hogan shut the project down, it had received approval in all places, including a Record of Decision. Now that the project is being revisited, Jordan doesn’t want the plans to change.
“We want Gov. Moore to pick up where the project was canceled,” he said. “We don’t want to start over again.”
Jordan said BTEC has a traffic engineer on their team who makes regular visits to the corridor to see if there are any barriers that would slow down the approval and construction of the Red Line. So far, they haven’t seen anything that would raise concerns.
“We’re telling the governor, ‘Look, get the re-evaluation, get the new record of decision, take that federal money, and let’s get started. Put that shovel in the ground.’ We’ll have it done within five years of the beginning of construction,” Jordan said.
Jon Laria, chair of the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Transportation and Mobility Committee and one of the leaders of the Baltimore Transit Future campaign, mentioned President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill as a benefit to getting the project going at this time.
“It’s absolutely the right place and the right time,” Laria said. “The federal government is providing, really, an unprecedented opportunity for the infrastructure investment… It all sort of comes together…. You have a governor who is deeply committed to this. You have a community that desperately needs it and is ready to stand behind it. You have a federal government that is making resources available and is also itself favorably inclined to transit investments.”
The Baltimore Transit Future campaign is a joint effort between the GBC and the Greater Washington Partnership that aims to improve the existing transit modes in Baltimore as well as introduce a 10-year Rapid Transit Expansion program.
Laria said the effort to get the Red Line process restarted was more than one group of people working for it.
“It takes an entire community of community leaders, business leaders, and certainly government-appointed and elected officials to make something like this happen,” Laria said. “And of course, that’s what we did when the original Red Line was poised to proceed. That’s how we got there.”
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said the community efforts to get the Red Line project back show its importance to the region.
“The continued enthusiasm and advocacy of community groups throughout the region to expand access to accessible, equitable, and reliable transportation options is a consistent reminder that an east-west transit solution is a necessity for our residents,” Olszewski said in a statement to Baltimore Fishbowl.
“As chair of the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board, I appreciate the invaluable work done by these stakeholders,” Olszewski added. “We have heard the calls from communities in the eastern and western corridors of Baltimore County for a truly interconnected project that will connect residents with the transformative job opportunities available at Tradepoint Atlantic, and look forward to the expanded Red Line serving our entire region for generations to come.”
In the time that the Red Line was shut down, Jordan says BTEC was still working toward transit equality in the area by treating it like a political campaign.
“I would give presentations and discussions almost anywhere, and at the drop of a hat,” Jordan said. “Why the Red Line needs to be completed. And we raised issues of transit equity.”
The decision to shut down the Red Line was one that was made without talking to the communities it most closely affected, according to Jordan.
“The cancellation of the Red Line was an aggressive, punitive reinforcement of the status quo,” Jordan said. “The status quo for Black and brown people is always punitive in a society like this.”
Laria said there was not much convincing that needed to be done in order to restart progress on the Red Line.
“I think the governor needs to know that we are supportive, and he knows,” Laria said. “But, we did not have a lot of convincing to do to have this administration recognize that it needs to restart the Red Line process. It is fundamentally, favorably inclined to that. But I think it’s essential for us to demonstrate that it matters to us, that we need it to happen, and that we will be supportive in any way possible.”