Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Mayor's last Stand

In the same place in West Baltimore where then governor Martin O'Malley had announced the preferred alternative for the Red Line and where the City had recently called to rally for
Mayor's Blake's press conference today at 1pm in West Baltimore (with Congressman Cummings and
Sarbanes (right), State Senator Pugh a(left) and Delegate Anderson
the new governor to maintain the State funding for it, Baltimore's Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake stood today side by side with Elijah Cummings to decry the huge slap in the face that Hogan's recent announcement to kill the Red Line presents for Baltimore City.

"The Red Line was a unique opportunity to connect transit and community development. But the Hogan administration say yes to liquor stores and youth jails instead of opportunity she said. "While we don't agree with the State's decision we have to move forward. I promise to do the compromises that are necessary."
Cummings repeated that "Baltimore needs the Red Line. We pay taxes, too. This [federal] money is not going to be spent on another transit project, it will go somewhere else. I do not give up. We came together to stand up." Congressman John Sarbanes reminded Hogan that he had said himself that Baltimore should be the economic engine of the region. "The governor moved in the wrong direction", he exclaimed. "We urge the Governor to reconsider this. We need to move forward, not backward." 
"This is really a sad time", Catherine Pugh said, but he said "not in this form" she reminded, "what does that mean?"  Let's talk about the problems the Governor has with this project, she demanded. 
Delegate Curt Anderson reminded of previous visionary project that "the bean counters and pencil pushers" couldn't imagine, such as the convention center and the ballpark. 
Don Fry of GBC called the Red Line decision a "major body blow". A project doesn't get to the level the Red Line got, if it was poorly designed. That is a fact, Fry said. 

Governor O'Malley announcing the preferred Red Line alternative
in West Baltimore in August 2009

From what one can tell at this time, though, the Governor has the upper hand and all rallies, tweets and press releases won't change that. Likely the decision to kill the Red Line has much more to do with the decision to support the Purple Line than with any particular flaws the new administration thinks the Red Line design has. The main argument for the Red Line: It doesn't serve Baltimore but the suburbs of Washington. Baltimore is much disliked among
Governor Hogan at his press conference cancelling the Red Line last Thursday
Hogan's supporters as many recent comments around the Red Line decision have shown. Plus, the Purple Line is one 100% a P3 project (public, private partnership) which reduces the amount of money the State has to chip in. In the way Hogan looks at it to a measly $168 million, really a pittance compared to the $1.8 billion he has proposed for road construction and pavement. There is no way that the Red Line could be done with such a small State participation, so the goose was cooked the moment the Purple Line got the nod.

Today's rally in West Baltimore will not change that simple arithmetic.
It is not likely that the Governor would be very impressed by today's speeches. However, there will be a day when the Governor, who now owns the MTA, MDOT and whose state includes the largest city in Maryland, will need these very people who he had slapped so hard with his project cancellation. Although I wouldn't want to blame the victim for the killing of the Red Line, it is the time for the City to change how it asserts itself with the new Governor. A good start would be close collaboration with Baltimore County's Executive Kamenetz. Supposedly he was invited to today's press conference but attended the MML conference instead. He has bad mouthed the Red Line with impunity but now, like the Mayor, demands an alternative from the Governor.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA   updated 14.21h

ArchPlan has been a consultant for the Red Line since 2002 and has worked on alignment evaluations, land use reports, TOD and community vision plans around stations.

Stay tuned for a full length blog article about Republican transportation strategies coming out this Friday.

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