While there has been much talk in recent months regarding transit improvements in the state, to the degree that an artery of service is being disbanded to free up cash in order to improve other lines of service, a recent hearing took place during which State Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn’s remarks seemed to have quashed what had initially been an area of positivity.
Rahn renewed his intention to work with legislators to improve transit systems he admitted were substandard, but made clear those efforts would have to be funded by existing resources—not by funds derived from the cancellation of the Red Line.
Rahn said the $736 million the state will save over the next six years by canceling the Baltimore light rail line, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars shaved from the Washington area's Purple Line project, are going toward achieving the Republican governor's "vision" for Maryland's transportation future. In other words, roads improvements.
"Will there be any money left?" asked Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, a Baltimore Democrat.
"The savings from the Purple Line and Red Line have been committed to roads," Rahn said.
The joint hearing of the Senate Budget & Taxation and House Appropriations committees was lawmakers’ first chance to question the administration about the sweeping shift in transportation priorities Hogan announced June 25. In conjunction with cancellation of the Red Line light rail project, the governor gave a conditional green light to the $2.4 billion Purple Line and announced $2 billion in spending on highways, about two-thirds of it new.
During the hearing, Rahn struck a generally conciliatory tone, pledging to meet with Baltimore leaders Aug. 10 to discuss transit alternatives. But he offered no specific proposals to replace the $3 billion Red Line, which took a dozen years to plan and had the support of City Hall and Baltimore business leaders.