Extending Metro to Beltway to be studied

Line could go farther than Morgan State

General Assembly

March 13, 2004|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

State Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said yesterday that he has directed department officials to begin studying a possible extension of the Baltimore Metro, which ends at Johns Hopkins Hospital, to the Beltway northeast of the city.

Flanagan told the city's House delegation yesterday that he believes the subway's Green Line could be extended beyond Morgan State University, which would have been the eastern terminus of the subway under previous plans.

The transportation secretary said an extension to the Baltimore Beltway would attract riders.

"It provides an opportunity to encourage commuters from Baltimore County and Harford County to use the Green Line into the city," Flanagan said.

Flanagan later emphasized that the study, which would be necessary to estimate the cost of the extension, is not a commitment to build.

The secretary's statement came as part of an aggressive effort to persuade city lawmakers to support Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s transportation revenue bill.

The legislation, the centerpiece of which is a hefty increase in vehicle registration charges, has been a tough sell with urban lawmakers because of a perception that the Ehrlich administration is less than sympathetic to mass transit projects. Lawmakers have also questioned the mix of revenue-raising methods in the package.

Flanagan sweetened the pot for Baltimore lawmakers by saying he would try to move up the start of construction on the region's proposed Red Line, extending from Woodlawn to the Fells Point-Canton area, from 2011 to 2010. He had previously promised $17 million to begin planning the route, provided the legislation passes.

Although he continued to discourage city lawmakers' hopes for a full-fledged subway on the route, Flanagan assured them that he was open to the idea of making the east-west transit route a light rail line. He assured them that he was not wedded to the notion of making the Red Line a rapid bus route, a solution that he and the governor had been promoting as recently as January.

Some delegates expressed reluctance to settle for anything less than a heavy rail line.

"Buses are buses, and light rails are trolleys," said Del. Keith E. Haynes, a Baltimore Democrat. "We really need an emphasis on a true Metro rail system."

Flanagan replied that any light rail included in the Red Line would not necessarily be the same as the current north-south light rail system, which is frequently caught up in downtown traffic. Some underground light rail is not out of the question, he said.

Because the Red Line is the Baltimore region's top priority, any extension of the Green Line to the Beltway could be far in the future. Even the extension to Morgan State would not begin until sometime next decade.

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