Larry Hogan announced billions of dollars in state spending on Thursday afternoon, but the Red Line was not one of them. The Republican governor said he does not support construction of an east-west commuter rail through Baltimore due to the design. However, Hogan said the state would pitch in money to help build the proposed Purple Line commuter rail near D.C.
At a news conference in Annapolis, Hogan said the current design of the Red Line “makes no sense whatsoever.” The roughly $3B project needed a portion of construction costs to be covered by the state to move forward.
Hogan said an underground tunnel below downtown Baltimore and Fells Point marked a flaw in the design, as well as a lack of connection to the city’s existing rail. The tunnel was slated to cost about $1 billion of the total $2.9 billion price tag. Rahn’s statements mirrored criticism voiced by the Baltimore-based Right Rail Coalition, which shopped its own alternative design plan to Hogan’s transition team shortly after he was elected. The Right Rail plan routes the commuter rail north of downtown, where it would theoretically tie in with the existing MTA subway line.
The decision deals a blow to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other Baltimore politicians who were vocal supporters of the Red Line. In a statement, the mayor said she is “disheartened” by the decision and said Hogan chose to “ignore the needs of Baltimore City residents.” The governor, on the other hand, said the Red Line plan does not meet the city’s needs.
Despite SRB’s backing, however, the projecjt didn’t enjoy universal popularity in Baltimore City. The Right Rail Coalition proposal was endorsed over the state’s design by State Sen. Bill Ferguson, Del. Pete Hammen and other state legislators. Opponents also said $900M in federal funding for the project was in doubt after Republicans took control of Congress in November.
Before his Red Line announcement, Hogan said he would allow the state to spend money to build the Purple Line. The state will make $197 million available under a “scaled-back” version for the DC-area commuter rail. The proposal initially called for a $700 million rail line in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County. Hogan called on leaders of those counties to pony up more money for the project.
Hogan hasn’t been totally against expensive rail projects. On a recent trip to Asia, he endorsed a plan to study whether Maryland should build a super-fast maglev train with the help of the Japanese government.
But on this day, the big spend is coming on the places where the cars go. Hogan promised $1.97 billion for road and bridge repairs in a variety of counties, including Anne Arundel and Prince George’s, St. Mary’s and Frederick. None of the road projects identified in his press release issued after the announcement were in Baltimore City.