Red Line Rejection and Hogan’s Political Calculus 

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While many Montgomery County politicos and advocates are jubilant about the decision to proceed with the Purple Line, folks in Baltimore are fuming about Larry Hogan’s decision to kill the Red Line project there.

Dashing Baltimore’s hopes for a long-anticipated east-west light rail line to improve its transit network, Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that he will not build the $2.9 billion Red Line across the city.

“We are not opposed to public transportation. We are opposed to wasteful boondoggles,” the governor said. “The Red Line as currently proposed is not the best way to bring jobs and opportunity to the city.”

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By eliminating the expense of the Red Line and scaling back the state’s share of the Purple Line, Hogan freed up hundred of millions of dollars he plans to use to undertake a significant shift in the state’s transportation priorities from public transit to road projects.

The governor announced $2 billion in highway spending, $1.35 billion of it new, as part of a long-range plan to give the state road system 57 percent of the transportation pie rather than the 45 percent share it received under Gov. Martin O’Malley. Hogan said he was keeping the promise he made to Maryland voters to make the state’s roads his No. 1 priority.

By deciding not to go ahead with the Red Line, the Republican governor is dealing a major blow to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who had hoped construction of the light rail project would bring a windfall of jobs and economic development.

Rawlings-Blake said she was “disheartened’ by Hogan’s decision.

“Although the governor has promised to support economic growth in Baltimore, he canceled a project that would have expanded economic development, created thousands of jobs, increased access to thousands more, and offered residents better health care, child care and educational opportunities,” she said.

The politics of this split decision are obvious. Hogan is seeking to splinter the Baltimore/Montgomery/Prince George’s Democratic base, delivering for the D.C. suburbs and snubbing Charm City. Even the “winning” Purple Line is going to result in a significantly increased county burden, probably in the neighborhood of $300 million combined for Montgomery County and Prince George’s counties during construction alone.

In the meantime, Baltimore is going to be rightfully seething, and any effort to provide direct or indirect financial assistance to offset the new local Purple Line costs will be laughed at by the powers that be in Baltimore’s state delegation.

State Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said she was blindsided by the action.

“To say I’m disappointed by the loss of the Red Line would be an understatement,” said McIntosh, who brokered a deal with Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. a decade ago to get the Red Line planning started.

Maggie is not happy. Watch for the next legislative session to be a war from day one. Hell, the guns will probably start firing way before that.

Finally, both Baltimore - which has virtually no road improvement projects on the $2 billion goodie list laid out by Hogan yesterday - and the D.C. suburbs will get the privilege of paying their proportional share of the costs of road improvement all over the state.

Note the double standard. When it comes to transit, Baltimore gets nothing and DC gets added costs.

For road construction, the rest of the state gets not only projects paid 100% by the State, but also more - Hogan announced that he intends to restore the “traditional” formula whereby counties get 30% of all state transportation funding for their local needs, to be allocated as the counties see fit. Translation - more free money for everyone else, zero or close to it for Baltimore.

Politically speaking, Hogan was masterful. He split his opposition, funding transit in MoCo/PG, while sticking it to Baltimore. He will now extort more money from the two Purple Line counties, who won’t get any sympathy from their political allies in Baltimore if they’re looking to make up the increased costs with state funding in other areas. By killing the Red Line, Hogan also frees up the funds to spend vastly more money on road construction and improvement jobs, projects which disproportionately benefits the rural and growing suburban areas of the state that supported him in 2014.

So the Purple Line got the green light. After that, there ain’t a whole lot more good news to report. Jubilant Purple Line advocates would be wise to be sensitive to this fact.

0 thoughts on “Red Line Rejection and Hogan’s Political Calculus 

  1. Eric Wardell

    Sad to see politics playing such a big role in something necessary for Baltimore but no so necessary for DC suburbs. Baltimore is in desperate need of additions to its transportation system, DC suburbs aren’t as pressed. Depressing, but at least there’s nation-wide acknowledgment of human rights for our country’s LGBT community.


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