Five years later, many across Baltimore bitterly lament Gov. Hogan’s decision to
It’s all she has to show for more than a decade of work. The MTA spent nearly $300 million in planning, design and land acquisition for the 14.1-mile light-rail line. Marylanders still pay the increased gas tax that would have helped build it. But Shaw and her fellow transit riders are left waiting for the bus.
Five years ago, in the face of renewed calls for investment in Baltimore after the unrest over Freddie Gray’s death from injuries suffered in police custody, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) canceled the $2.9 billion Red Line, scrapping a project touted as a windfall of jobs, development and environmental sustainability, especially for some of the city’s Black neighborhoods.
The newly elected Republican governor returned $900 million in federal funding and shifted $736 million of state money to roads in the surrounding, predominantly White counties.
“It was mind-boggling to me,” Shaw said. “I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
The move drew federal complaints and an Obama administration investigation into whether it violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Trump administration closed the review without issuing any public findings.
Shaw had helped convince skeptics in West Baltimore, who remember the “Highway to Nowhere” built through Black neighborhoods. The Red Line would connect them to the rest of the region, she said, not take their homes.
Then, after 14 years of countless MTA meetings, officials abruptly stopped taking her calls.
The transit line — from Woodlawn through West Baltimore, downtown, Fells Point and Canton to Johns Hopkins Bayview on the east — had been planned since 2002. But various versions of the line had been on city transit planning maps since the 1960s.
The Red Line aimed to transform the Baltimore region’s meager, single-line light rail and subway, which don’t share any stations, into a more unified, useful network. The project promised to create an estimated 13,000 jobs and stimulate $6.5 billion in economic development along the corridor.
More than 100 neighbors and other stakeholders helped develop the Red Line Community Compact, designed to ensure that the communities along the line benefited from the project and had input in its planning. Training for construction, maintenance and transit operation had been planned for students and adults at Edmondson-Westside High School.
“The Red Line was, and is, one of the single most important things that can be done to prepare Baltimore for the future,” said John Porcari, former Maryland secretary and U.S. deputy secretary of transportation, who helped acquire the federal funding for the project in the Obama administration.
Former governor Martin O’Malley, Hogan’s Democratic predecessor, signed an unpopular gas tax increase into law in 2013 to raise state money for the Red Line and other projects. But Hogan, a suburban real estate developer who campaigned against increased taxes, viewed the light-rail line as a “wasteful boondoggle.”
In particular, Hogan balked at the $1 billion proposed tunnel under downtown Baltimore, Harbor East and Fells Point. The city already received the second-most state funding of any Maryland jurisdiction, he said. Rather than an outcry for more investment, the 2015 unrest became a reason to cut.
“We just spent $14 million extra money on the riots in Baltimore City a few weeks ago,” said Hogan, explaining his decision during a 2015 news conference. The governor declined a request to be interviewed for this article.
Then-mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, remembers feeling “profound disappointment” at Hogan’s decision.
“At a time when people were looking at Baltimore for so many [negative] reasons, it could have been a signal we were investing in our communities that needed it the most,” Rawlings-Blake said. “Instead, it was unceremoniously ripped out of our grasp.”
Cost estimate called unrealistic
Pete Rahn, Hogan’s then-transportation secretary, still believes the Red Line’s…