Rally backs the proposed east-west light rail line

October 30, 2008|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,michael.dresser@balltsun.com

Leaders of Baltimore's medical institutions, colleges and universities rallied yesterday in support of a proposed east-west light rail line from the city's eastern border to Woodlawn, calling it an essential part of a robust urban transit system.

Representatives of such institutions as Mercy Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Bayview, the University of Maryland, Baltimore and Sojourner-Douglass College gathered at the UMB Biopark for an event organized by the Greater Baltimore Committee to show support for its preferred version of the so-called Red Line.

The GBC has endorsed a proposal for the 14.6-mile line that would run from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Woodlawn to Hopkins Bayview in Southeast Baltimore, using one tunnel to avoid roads downtown and in Fells Point and another to go under Cooks Lane in West Baltimore.

Gregory F. Schaffer, president of Bayview, said that as a former resident of New York and Boston, he is used to a "terrific" public transit system.

"That's something that's a real strategic disadvantage for Baltimore," he said.

Schaffer said that competing proposals for a subway system like the existing Metro would be too expensive to qualify for federal funding.

"The Red Line really is the best fit," he said.

The Maryland Transit Administration will begin holding hearings next week on several alternatives for the Red Line - including light rail and dedicated bus lanes but not a subway. The series of four hearings will continue though Nov. 13. The MTA will make a final choice early next year and submit it to the federal government to compete for funding with other proposed projects around the country.

The GBC contends the light rail option offers the best balance of costs and benefits - a key criteria for winning federal approval.

Donald C. Fry, president of the GBC, said the Red Line alternative his group favors would bear little resemblance to the existing north-south light rail system that runs along Howard Street. He said it would represent a new generation of light rail technology - "more sleek, lower to the ground."

"This is the Baltimore region's chance to build real quality into our rail system," Fry said.

Information: www.mtamaryland.com .

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