MTA seeks input on east-west transit line


Baltimore-area residents will get a chance next month to voice their opinions on the best approach for proposed mass transit service from Woodlawn to Canton.

The Maryland Transit Administration will hold five community workshops starting May 11 to update residents on planning for the east-west Red Line, said Tony Brown, deputy director of MTA's planning office.

State transportation officials say the Red Line would be either a light rail system or a bus rapid transit system - a bus system using dedicated roadways and tunnels for portions of the route.

Brown said MTA wants people's views on possible configurations of the route, the type of system they prefer and where they think stations should be located.

He said there are several alternatives for running the Red Line, and those will be presented at the session.

"This follows up on workshops that we held last November," Brown said. "We want to share information that we've updated about proposed alignment options."

The restructuring of bus service and the development of mass transit plans by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s administration has often been a contentious affair.

Nate Payer, a spokesman for the Transit Riders Action Council of Metropolitan Baltimore, said state officials refuse to even study the possibility of building a heavy rail subway system.

"We have looked at the federal guidelines for [mass transit] funding, and they are not considering all reasonable alternatives," Payer said. "One has to consider all modes that make technical sense."

He said that a light rail system, even if part runs underground inside the city, won't get as many riders because in most places it will be on surface streets and slowed by congestion and traffic signals.

"We don't need another project in the city that would hurt the city or damage the city or to spend a lot of money that doesn't do anything," Payer said.

He said members of his group will attend the workshops to voice their opinions, as they did in November - despite their frustration that the idea of a subway system has been "taken off the table."

But Dan Pontious of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, a public policy and neighborhood assistance organization, said it is doubtful the state could ever land federal funding for a subway project in Baltimore.

"Heavy rail is not being approved for new lines in metropolitan areas the size of Baltimore," Pontious said.

He said that his group is "keeping an open mind" on the type of system that should be used for the Red Line.

"In addition to mobility, it should serve as a tool for the revitalization of communities and attract economic development where people want it. That's the key criteria for us - more jobs and making places more vibrant."

Officials hope to start construction in 2010, Brown said.

Spring Red Line workshops

Thursday, May 11 11:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. -- Lexington Market, 400 W. Lexington St.

Saturday, May 13 9:30 a.m.-noon -- Holy Rosary Church, 408 S. Chester St.

Thursday, May 18 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. -- Edmondson High School, 501 N. Athol Ave.

Saturday, May 20 9:30 a.m.-noon -- Lockerman Bundy Elementary School, 301 N. Pulaski St.

Tuesday, May 23 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. -- Woodlawn High School, 1801 Woodlawn Drive

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