Gold-medal transit needed

2012 Games: The region has made the cut

now, Baltimore must accelerate its transportation plan.

October 30, 2001

NOW IT'S SERIOUS. Baltimore's joint bid with Washington has made the short list for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The multitude of athletes, spectators and media representatives must have a way to get around, but the Baltimore area's not ready for the crush.

So it's time for the region to accelerate plans to build a top-notch transportation system. Doing so not only would solidify the region's Olympic bid but also would benefit commuters long after the games. The region's long-term regional transportation plan promises three rail projects, but just one - a downtown Baltimore loop - would be on line before 2012. Under the current proposal, rail extensions to White Marsh and Social Security headquarters would wait until 2020.

The Chesapeake Region 2012 Coalition, of which Sun publisher Michael E. Waller is a board member, became a finalist among American cities competing for the games because the area has a lot going for it: 128 arenas and stadiums, 46 colleges and universities that can offer dormitory space for athletes and media workers, 100,000 hotel rooms (compared with Atlanta's 64,000 for the 1996 Games) and three major airports.

But the claim that the area has a well-developed mass transit system is only half true.

There's no question about the quality of Washington's public transportation system. It's one of the best in the country.

Baltimore's is a different story. Planning has improved but remains too slow, too distant.

The city's sports venues would figure prominently in the Olympics. But if Olympians, fans and the press would have trouble reaching sites by public transportation, as commuters do now, the local committee will find it difficult selling others on Baltimore.

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