City gets more transportation funds

Flanagan announces $21.6 million increase for the next six years

October 01, 2004|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

One week after state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan sharply criticized Baltimore's economic development efforts, he appeared at City Hall to say more money is on the way from Annapolis.

This time it was Flanagan who was on the receiving end of complaints. While city officials and residents welcomed the added transportation funding, they raised issues about a light rail station that is only open for events at the Ravens stadium and the lack of public transportation to a temporary Greyhound bus station.

Most of the meeting was upbeat, however, with Flanagan saying that for the next six years, the city will get $21.6 million more a year in highway user revenues, bringing that total to $1.3 billion from 2005 to 2010. That comes on top of $760 million in capital projects funding -- for city rail, tunnel, port, airport and bus system improvements -- over the same period. The increase -- the first, state officials said, in Maryland transportation funding in more than a decade -- will improve safety and ease congestion through a number of projects, Flanagan said. Even so, the secretary said he would like to do more.

"I wish I was unrestricted in budgets," Flanagan said.

At a transportation summit last week, Flanagan said Baltimore had failed to capitalize on opportunities to revive the neighborhood around Penn Station. City officials disputed that and said progress had been made.

Yesterday, city officials and residents made complaints of their own. Betty Bland-Thomas, a neighborhood leader in Sharp-Leadenhall, said it didn't make sense that the Hamburg Street light rail station in her community is only open for events at the Ravens stadium.

Flanagan said the station was designed to support the stadium, not to be open full time.

State Sen. George W. Della Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, took up the neighborhood's cause, saying, "All it would take is a ticket machine."

City officials also repeated their request that the Maryland Transit Administration run a bus line to the Greyhound station that opened in June south of the stadium. The closest bus stop is two blocks away, and passengers must cross busy Russell Street to get to the station.

City Transportation Director Al Foxx told Flanagan he has watched passengers trying to cross the six-lane street with luggage and children in tow. He and Democratic Del. Salima S. Marriott of Baltimore called the situation unsafe.

Flanagan, who has said the city is to blame for choosing a poor bus station site, said extending the MTA route to the station would inconvenience other passengers by seven or eight minutes. He also said Greyhound passengers should be able to cross safely at the crosswalk. But Flanagan added that he was willing to work with the city on the issue.

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