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June 25, 2009

Cummings: Stay course on Red Line

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings told a Greater Baltiimore Committee Transportation Committee that he is optimistic that Congress will scrap a rigid federal formula that has complicated the process of planning the Maryland Transit Administration's proposed Red Line.

That might sound to good news to critics of the most likely alternative for the Woodlawn-to-Bayview line, which would run light rails cars on the surface along Edmondson Avenue and Boston Street in order to save money on tunnel construction in order to meet the Federal Transit Administration's cost-benefit formula.

 However, Cummings said Maryland should move ahead with its effort to gain federal funding for the Red Line under the old rules. He rejected calls for the state to delay the project in order to see whhat new rulles Congress and the Obama administration might adopt.

"I think we're going to have to move forward on the schedule that we're on," said the powerful 7th District Democrat, a subcommittee chairman on the House panel that is drafting the new, multi-year transportation authorization bill scheduled to expire this year.

Though many of his constituents in the Edmondson Avenue corridor oppose building the Red Line unless it runs in a tunnel thought their neighborhood, Cummings said it is vital to keep the Red Line planning process on track.

 "Whatever we do, I do not want to hold up the Red Line. I think the Red Line has been held up long enough," Cummings said.

The alternative that has won support from Baltimore, Baltimore County and the GBC is one that would run light raiil in a tunnel under Cooks Lane in West Baltimore, downtown and Fells Point but come out of the ground along Edmondson Avenue and in Canton. The plan has sparked vocal protests in Canton as well as West Baltimore.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:13 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Red Line
        

Comments

Only a moron would run rail cars down the middle of Boston St. We don't want this thing -- a cutway for drug addicts burglars, and thieves.

Gene,

Every time a post like that appears, you completely discredit your neighborhood's argument. A traffic bind? yes.

A cutway for drug addicts, burglars, and thieves? Nope. Stats prove you wrong. Logic proves you wrong. Anything else is just bigotry, ignorance, and racism.

Get with the program. Do you really think that the poor black folk you so despise are going to come to your community and rob you on a train as opposed to a bus or car?

They aren't. People in your community, and burglars with these contraptions called cars are the ones you need to worry about. Those poor black folks? Yea, they are taking the train to these things called JOBS.

blarg -- Stats can prove anything to anyone. The introduction of mass transit to Hunt Valley provides visuals (the death of Hunt Valley Mall) that resonate more than any stats for those potentially impacted by the Red Line.

The Red Line talk needs to stop... Is this really what Cummings is working on? Come on.

Elijah, you are doing the equivalent of surfing the Internet at work--but its costing tax payers a lot of dough.

The city is broke and there are bigger fish to fry--the city's crime rate for example. Violent crime has increased and the level of homicides if extremely (too) high per capita.

Young professionals can no longer find solace in O'Malley as the city's mayor. Our current mayor has been indicted. The nicest town homes (Ritz) in the city are vacant and not generate tax revenue. The City needs to find new ways to generate revenue and cut costs while making people feel safe in the city ASAP.

Leon--

You prove my point exactly with the Hunt Valley reference. What do I need to look at? The overwhelming success of the new mall that is served heavily by an expanded light rail? The hundreds of jobs provided there to workers who utilize the light rail? The crime statistics that have gone down per capita with the increase of people using the mall?

What exactly? Clearly you haven't been there in awhile.

Allow me to make the distinction between Hunt Valley Mall (which I stated in my post) and Hunt Valley Towne Center.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunt_Valley_Towne_Centre

Let me know if you have any questions.

I have no questions. Hunt Valley Mall died because it was archaic and nothing was invested in it at a time when the area was still relatively undeveloped compared to the Towson area and it's newly opened mall with better stores. The light rail didn't kill the mall at all.

Hunt Valley Towne Center is a tremendous success. The Light Rail has only helped it. Why would CLR help the Towne Center yet kill the mall?

You make no sense.

Let me reiterate--Baltimore City should instead focus on making things better for its current residents. Its doesn't have the money or leadership to entertain these types of "pie-in-the-sky" endeavors.

You clearly missed my point concerning Hunt Valley Mall. I agree the mall lacked investment, however, one of the justifications for extending the Light Rail into Timonium/Hunt Valley was that it was supposed to 'save' the mall. Increased mobility would lead to economic stimulus which would lead to more jobs.

It didn't work for Hunt Valley Mall and it won't work for Westview.

Does Baltimore have a bunch of money that's burning a hole its its pockets?

How about investing in fighting existing crime? Or the city's teen pregnancy and STD rates.... How about fighting corruption in the city's police department, then hiring more police?

We're leaning on people like Elijah to ensure our tax payer money is spent in the most efficient manner possible. My gut tells me that's not happening...

It's always fascinating to watch ill informed minds debating mass transit and the equivocations they come up with to try and prove their points. Malls, everywhere, are dying. Big Box/"Avenue" stores are supplanting them across the country. To conflate this national trend with the effect of the Light Rail on Hunt Valley is ridiculous. It's about as relevant as blaming the demise of Chatham Mall on the Red Line.

As for the Red Line, Baltimore desperately needs viable mass transit alternatives to compete and grow in the future. The age of oil and fossil fuels currently looks to be waning and the prospect of $4-$5/gallon gas always seems right around the corner with the rise of the economies of China and India. Baltimore needs to position itself now to have viable comprehensive transit in place to move its population around. It is long overdue and it is a major reason why our economy lags already. Transportation is the foundation of a healthy economy. Rapid mass transit is the foundation of a healthy urban economy.

Always a treat to read comments from bleeding hearts such as blarg.

Tell me what part of our wonderful state do you reside? Surely not in any dilapidated neighborhood within the proposed Red Line's reach. Surely you don't live in Hunt Valley, otherwise you'd know exactly what Leon was speaking about. I was born and raised in Hunt Valley and can assure you my heart aches at what the Light Rail has done to our town.

Let me stop you before you sling mud, no I am not racist. I happen to be an African-American woman.I'm not heartless, I'll gladly show you my tax return charitable contributions. But what I am is a level-headed, intelligent individual.

With the introduction of the Light Rail to Hunt Valley we were also introduced to crime and other unsavory side effects that the Light Rail brings. Sure it is nice to be able to hop on and take a ride to Camden Yards if you make sure to bring your pepper spray and it's during the daylight.

Make no mistake the Light Rail is well-intentioned but those that frequent the mode of transportation have less than civil intentions for the Light Rail itself and the neighborhoods it stops in.

Step outside of your ivory tower and acknowledge the reality and gravity of the crumbling city and outlining county of Baltimore and see what failed democratic leadership has done for our cities and our state.

Actually,"Mrs. Jone's", for somebody who was "born and raised in the 'town' of Hunt Valley", you don't seem to know much about it. For starters, where is the town of Hunt Valley anyway?

As somebody who has lived in Towson, and in Timonium, and in Cockeysville, since 1968, I can tell you that while Cockeysville is a town where somebody might grow up, ditto Sparks, Monkton, Jacksonville, etc. Hunt Valley is not and never has been a town - it was pretty much invented when the real estate was developed into light industrial and manufacturing, centered on McCormick. I'm struggling to come up with where the residences are that would allow somebody to have grown up in Hunt Valley before the light rail arrived.

Dear Patapsco Jane--

The age of oil and fossil fuels currently looks to be waning??? Really, with the China and India talk already?!?! Did you cut and paste that observation from a macroeconomics text book... from 1996? What about Brazil and Russia? No mention....

Talk about ill informed. The global economy WILL NOT come to a grinding halt with $4-5 oil. The argument doesn't invoke fear and is not effective.

The city of Baltimore is not cutting edge and it won't be in the foreseeable future... its BROKE! Its infested with drugs and violent crime. So unless the city can find another hidden account with say $1.5B let's put the wish list away for now.

Thank you. Leon

Mrs. Jone's,

I grew up in Sparks, and I watched the area that was the mall go from a pumpkin patch to a fantastic mall to a state of decay and back to what it is today.

And I will say with stats on my side that crime might be up since pre-light rail days, it is only up due to the immense growth in the area, which has brought along both good and bad elements.

If you look at the statistics in that area of the county, crime has dropped DRAMATICALLY since double tracking of the light rail, which has brought ADDITIONAL train service to the area. You can't argue out of that.

There is a common perception that trains bring crime. This might be true, but trains also bring tremendous opportunity and growth that is significantly greater than the crime that comes along with it.

I'm just happy the younger generation gets this, so that someday, once all of the ignorant folks have moved on, we might get decent transit funding in this country.

Leon--

I do get your point about funding. The city has bigger fish to fry for sure. But the problem is you can't use transit money for drug treatment, for example. Transit money is transit money. And it gets a federal match.

We won't be spending money that could keep libraries open to build a Red Line. We'll be spending money that could be used on some highway somewhere instead. I'm OK with that because the Red Line might attract a few young people to our neighborhoods, a few developers to sketchier areas, and things like that. That can only be good for the city.

I live in Canton and I think the proposed Red Line is a bad idea. First, money on mass transportation would be better spent by building a system from Belair-White Marsh-JH Bayview-Inner Harbor than the east-west Redline. Secondly, Canton residents view the area as an oasis from the rest of Baltimore and building any mass transit system, especially on Boston St, is not wanted above or below ground (and the city's response of a tunnel being cost prohibitive is somewhat laughable when more than half of the proposed Redline system is already below ground until it gets to Boston St). Speaking of Boston St, it is perhaps the best way to get to downtown from I-95, north of the tunnels. Building the Redline on Boston will destroy this essential, fairly quick, route. I would like to see the city build mass transportation infrastructure, but think this is not the plan to follow.

Also, after reading your comments to the other posts I must say that the people who shop at Hunt Valley do not use light rail. I would agree that some people that work at Hunt Valley do use light rail. I think you are confusing the purpose of mass transportation/light rail with urban development. We build mass transportation to efficiently get to common places of importance. We do not build mass transportation to areas of little commercial/residential interest with the "hopes" of urban renewal/development. The fact is that light rail killed Hunt Valley. It was the housing boom that revived Hunt Valley, not the light rail system.

Mike, let me take this quote and adapt it, just for discussion's sake:

"Speaking of Boston St, it is perhaps the best way to get to downtown from I-95, north of the tunnels. Building the Redline on Boston will destroy this essential, fairly quick, route."

Replace with

"Speaking of Boston St, it is perhaps the best way to get to downtown from I-95, north of the tunnels. Building the Redline on Boston will provide a quick and car free commute into the city from the interstate. It will also provide opportunities for commuters to visit Canton businesses and eateries on the way home from work without the hassle of finding parking."

I agree serving White Marsh should be a priority as well. I still disagree on the point about the Light Rail. Building a mall in the middle of nowhere killed Hunt Valley. The housing boom revitalized it, and the Light Rail provided the worker base to support the success.

When you refer to Hunt Valley having been killed, I'm assuming you mean the mall and not the area, as the area has never been on the down-and-out as far as I know.

As for the mall, Death Valley Mall was already having issues when rail came in, and it's exactly right that it was small and mismanaged, and in the middle of nowhere, relatively speaking. I worked in the immediate vicinity and went there often when it was doing the best it ever did, all the way through it being reduced to low-rent places and vacant storefronts (a buddy of mine had a computer store there during that era and I was there a lot), and then through the last days when most of it was walled off prior to being taken down.

Why would anybody think Light Rail killed that mall? I never saw roving bands of thugs and criminals that took the train out to terrorise and steal, and I was in and around it on a daily basis for years.

Objecting to mass transit because "it brings criminals" is like objecting to the existence of cars and roads because they make criminals mobile. Of course they all do, but since most of us are not criminals, most of the people using any form of transportation are law-abiding.

Galen,

How about a response to the argument that was posted above?

"Objecting to mass transit because 'it brings criminals' is like objecting to the existence of cars and roads because they make criminals mobile. Of course they all do, but since most of us are not criminals, most of the people using any form of transportation are law-abiding."

As a resident of Canton, I have to say I am all for the Red Line. Boston Street has become a major commuter route and the people I encounter on the road during my drive to work seem like they're in training for the Indy 500. Taking Boston street down to two lanes would force people who choose to drive onto other roads, improving congestion. Also, having an efficient commuter rail within walking distance would result in increased property values, since it would make living in the city more appealing. Baltimore won't be a "real city" until it has an efficient and integrated urban public transportation network. The red line is the first major step in this network's development.

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.
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