MTA urged to extend deadline for transit plan

Lawmakers accuse state of failing to supply details

July 19, 2005|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Three Baltimore-area members of Congress demanded yesterday that the Maryland Transit Administration extend its deadline for comments on a proposed restructuring of metropolitan bus system routes, charging that Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan has not given them critical information about the changes.

Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, Benjamin L. Cardin and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, all Democrats, told Flanagan he had failed to answer basic questions about how the proposed Greater Baltimore Bus Initiative would affect riders.

According to the congressmen, Flanagan's reply to their May 26 request for specific information about the proposed changes did not arrive until Wednesday - almost seven weeks later. Cummings said he was "disappointed" by the time it took for a response.

Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for Flanagan, said the secretary spoke with the congressmen yesterday and directed the MTA to send them additional information without delay - even if it was not complete. He said Flanagan was considering the request for an extension of Thursday's deadline.

Cummings said he had received the information and was still studying it.

The restructuring, one of the top transportation initiatives of Flanagan and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., would be the most comprehensive overhaul of the MTA's routes in more than three decades. Flanagan has argued that the system needs to be rethought and streamlined to account for changes in the Baltimore economy over the years.

At public hearings on the proposed changes last month, MTA officials heard vociferous protests from riders and transit advocates.

In an interview last night, Cummings called the proposed changes "alarming."

"Is this administration trying to reduce funding and reduce man-hours on the backs of people who can least afford it?" he asked.

The three congressmen wrote that they sought specific information comparing the current and proposed bus schedules in terms of total miles served, number of buses in peak and off-peak service and total hours of service each week.

"We are disappointed that your letter of July 13 did not provide the specific information we requested," the letter said. The congressmen wrote that Flanagan's letter "raises as many questions as it purports to answer."

Ehrlich and Flanagan extended the comment deadline last month after Mayor Martin O'Malley and the region's county executives sought an extension of the previous cutoff - June 17.

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