In a controversial maneuver, Governor Larry Hogan shot down the Red Line Light Rail project this past June. He called the almost $3 billion project a “wasteful boondoggle.” He proposed spending the leftover money on rebuilding roads outside of Baltimore.
The light rail was first proposed under the Glendening administration, and former Governor Martin O’Malley spent almost $300 million planning the line, now gone to waste.
The new rail would have been built through West Baltimore, an area that has been increasingly in the news because of the deep poverty its residents are suffering. The light rail would connect local job hubs such as Security Square and the University of Maryland Medical Center to neighborhoods that are currently experiencing high unemployment.
Hogan, however, misunderstood the intended effect of the light rail. Although he may have seen it as wasteful, many proponents for the Red Line understand the project as revitalizing some of the poorest areas in the city by creating jobs and giving them access to local food markets.
In a report by Transport for America, more than 27,000 residents who live along the proposed corridor are unemployed, making up a large majority of the 43,000 unemployed in the city itself. More than 56 percent of those living along the Red Line corridor are earning less than 80 percent of the median area income. In some neighborhoods, 70 percent of residents have no access to a car, and 1 in 4 residents of Baltimore, many of them in West Baltimore, have no access to a local supermarket.
Through construction, the Red Line would generate 15,000 new jobs and generate $2.1 billion in economic activity, according to Transport for America. In addition, 83,000 more residents would have access to public transportation as well as to 7,500 small or medium businesses. West Baltimore residents would also have access to supermarkets that are closer to the Inner Harbor, granting them healthier food options.
Overall traffic congestion would be reduced as well. According to a joint study by the Maryland Transit Authority and the City of Baltimore, “if no new transit is built in the Red line corridor, a 15 percent increase of vehicles is predicted for Cooks Lane and US 40, adding 13,000 more cars to the road by 2030. Downtown traffic is expected to increase by 25 percent, and mobile sources are estimated to comprise 44 percent of outdoor emissions of air toxins nationwide.”
Governor Hogan should realize that the positive effects that this light rail would have on the Greater Baltimore area would allow us to live in a safe and healthy community and would revitalize impoverished communities, giving them access to employment and healthier food options. Bringing these areas out of poverty and giving them access to local employment would immensely boost Baltimore’s economy.