Will new Obama transit policy affect Red Line?
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a new Obama administration policy Wednesday on funding of transit projects that scraps the Bush administration's rigid cost-benefit formula and replaces it with one that takes into account issues of neighborhoood livability.
This could be big news for the Baltimore area if it lets the Maryland Transit Administration go back and revise its pending application for funding of the east-west Red Line. In that case, what otherwise might have been a community consensus has been fractured by the need to keep the project's budget within the old guidelines. And even if it doesn't bring about a re-examination of the decision the keep the light rail line on the surface in Canton and along West Baltimore, it could open the door to permit the MTA to drop its unpalatable proposal to run the line on a single track under Cooks Lane.
It was not clear Wednesday night what the MTA's view of the policy will be. We'll be seeking answers to those questions Thursday.
In the meantime, here's how LaHood summarized the new policy:
We’re going to free our flagship transit capital program from long-standing requirements that have allowed us only to green-light projects that meet very narrow cost and performance criteria.
Instead, as we evaluate major transit projects going forward, we’ll consider ALL the factors that help communities reduce their carbon footprint, spur economic activity, and relieve congestion.
To put it simply: We WILL take livability into account.
As I wrote, this could be very big for transit project nationwide. But especially here in Maryland. Stay tuned.