City marathon becomes latest election tussle

October 07, 2006|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun reporter

Hard-fought political campaigns such as the race between Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Mayor Martin O'Malley are frequently compared with marathons, but seldom does an actual marathon become an issue.

That changed this week as Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan sharply criticized O'Malley for the city's choice of a route for the Oct. 14 Baltimore Marathon.

Flanagan said the 26-mile route of the annual event disrupts the Maryland Transit Administration's bus routes and Mobility service for the disabled.

"It couldn't be planned worse for sabotaging transit and paratransit service," Flanagan said. "They came to us and said this has been set by international standards and it can't be changed - take it or leave it."

The race will affect an area roughly bounded by 33rd Street and Harford Road in the north to Fort McHenry in the south, and from Patterson Park in the east to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the west. It will affect about 20 MTA routes that pass through central Baltimore.

Flanagan said the route was determined by the race's sponsors. He accused the mayor of "cozying up to business at the expense of thoe who ride paratransit and who are transit-dependent."

Raquel M. Guillory, the mayor's spokeswoman, expressed surprise at the transportation chief's objections.

"I've checked with everybody in city government and never heard of any concerns raised by Flanagan regarding the Baltimore Marathon this year or in previous years," she said.

"I can't understand why, after several years, Secretary Flanagan has decided this significant event for the city and the state's economy is a problem," she said.

Lee Corrigan, director of the marathon, said organizers of the 6-year-old event have had representatives of the MTA at every organizational meeting since it began. He said the first time an MTA representative expressed reservations about the route was two weeks ago - long after the route was measured and sanctioned by USA Track & Field.

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