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Transportation

Baltimore Lawmakers Seek to Tee Up Red Line Revival for Next Governor

A group of Baltimore lawmakers is seeking approval for a bill to revive the canceled 14-mile Red Line, which was set to connect Woodlawn in Baltimore County with Bayview, in the eastern part of Baltimore City. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

Spurred by a trillion-dollar federal infrastructural measure, a group of Baltimore lawmakers is seeking approval for a bill to revive the Red Line, a rail project that Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) killed early in his tenure.

Their measure, House Bill 632, would require the Maryland Department of Transportation to move “promptly” to plan and seek federal approval for an east-west rail line on the alignment envisioned for the Red Line, between the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in East Baltimore and the Social Security Administration offices in Woodlawn, in Baltimore County.

It would also require the agency to plan and seek approval to extend MARC Penn Line service to the Bayview campus.

“The goal of this bill is to have some movement by the department between now and the new governor, because we’ve got this great opportunity,” said Del. Sandy Rosenberg (D-Baltimore), the measure’s primary sponsor.

During a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the bill, Rosenberg noted that five members of Maryland’s congressional delegation — Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes and Kweisi Mfume, all Democrats — were able to get Red Line-friendly language added to the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. That provision has the potential to allow the Red Line to re-enter the federal funding queue as an established project, rather than at the end of the line — if it is embraced by the state’s next governor.

The original Red Line, which Hogan derided as a “wasteful boondoggle,” qualified for $900 million in federal funds, money that ended up going back into the treasury.

Elizabeth Hafey, a representative of Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, said the Red Line and the new MARC station would benefit the system’s patients, students, employees and visitors. “They rely on this transportation system to get to work or to school, to access health care and to meeting their needs,” she said.

In a letter to the appropriations panel, representatives from MDOT and the Maryland Transit Administration noted that the state is developing a Regional Transit Plan that includes $12 million to study a potential east-west project in the Red Line corridor.

“This study builds on work previously completed, updates current conditions, and utilizes projected conditions to evaluate potential routes, modes, and alignments for new transit service from Johns Hopkins Bayview through downtown Baltimore to Ellicott City,” they wrote.

The study will incorporate changes in employment patterns, neighborhoods, “equity policies” and Complete Streets legislation that have occurred since the original Red Line. Maryland spent $300 million to plan the project in the years leading up to Hogan’s decision to kill it.

The agencies took no position on the measure, but state officials noted that a new MARC station at Bayview would require considerable buy-in from Amtrak and Norfolk Southern Railroad. They also told lawmakers that 96% of MTA’s capital funding for the next six years has been earmarked to reduce its portion of MDOT’s $1.5 billion maintenance backlog.

“Significantly increasing investments in planning and preliminary engineering” for the Red Line “could put critical safety investments in state of good repair at risk as [the bill] does not propose a new funding or revenue source,” officials added.

The Red Line bill is backed by Rosenberg and Dels. Stephanie Smith, Tony Bridges and Dalya Attar, all Baltimore Democrats.