Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Red Line: Follow the money!

The latest ruse about the Red Line and the loss of all funds is about if really all funds have to be lost.

This issue came first up on Monday's infamous meeting in which the new MDOT Secretary took the top tier representation of about 40 high ranking officials and representatives (including Senator Mikaulski, Congreemen Cummings and Sarbanes, Mayor Rawlings Blake, GBC CEO Fry) as an opportunity to present them a polling sheet ("Please rank your top 5 priorities"?). There the question was if one couldn't wait to the end of the federal budget year before relinquishing the $100 million federal money set aside for the current fiscal year (and with it also the remaining $800 million for the coming years). Predictably, the answer was no.

Now the SUN reported that the State portion of the Red line funds also begs a question: Did really every last dollar of the $730 million State funding portion for the Red Line disappear or are there not at least $300 million still around as the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) maintains.
After Monday's meeting between state and city officials, Del. Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg asked General Assembly analysts how much mass transit money was now available based on the governor's moves. Deschenaux replied that $339 million in "loose change" was now freed up.
"That Sec. Rahn did not know at today's meeting that there is $339 million available in the [capital budget for transportation] for improvements to the metropolitan Baltimore mass transit system raises grave doubt about the seriousness of the Hogan Administration's approach to this issue," Rosenberg wrote in an email to The Sun. "I hope I am proven wrong."
$300 million would represent a nice down-payment for transit improvements that Secretary Rahn is talking about being on his mind for the Baltimore region (he really didn't share any, though). We are not talking about other budget line items such as MARC engines or potholes on City streets (which there are plenty). With $300 million or so one could really improve the entire bus system AND implement a first class priority bus system (a real QB system).
Governor Hogan at the announcement that the Red Line will
not be further pursued 

However, the Hogan administration quickly went into full blown attack mode against DLS and insisted that every dollar for the transit in this region had really been taken off the table.

Why they think that this is a prudent thing to repeat, even if it may have inadvertently not true, is beyond comprehension.
Erin Henson, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said there simply is no money left over after Hogan dedicated $1.35 billion in new projects for highways, bridges and system preservation to be undertaken in other parts of the state by 2018. "There is no additional funding available," she said.
Someone apparently thinks that continued poking of the finger into the eye of Baltimore's residents, representatives and supporters is the right thing to do. Giving the heart of the region the finger which represents over 60% of the state's GDP and in terms of transportation contributes  
·         More than 20% of registered vehicles in Maryland  registered to households in Baltimore City or Baltimore County alone.·         More than 20% of Vehicle Miles Traveled in Maryland in 2013 traveled in Baltimore City or Baltimore County.·         Roughly 25% of the population of Maryland residing in Baltimore City or Baltimore County.·         Roughly 26% of the jobs in Maryland located in Baltimore City or Baltimore County.·         Roughly 23% of the total income in Maryland coming from residents of Baltimore City and Baltimore County.  (CMTA)
doesn't seem a sustainable or viable strategy. Not to mention equity or environmental or social justice.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Here the latest SUN math research:

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