Readers Respond

August 09, 2009

Light rail the future of transit

It is time for the next generation of transit in Baltimore. The Baltimore Metropolitan area is growing and the demand for a reliable transit option is only increasing. How we address this challenge will shape our communities for decades to come -- it will help determine how we connect with each other, to our neighbors and neighborhoods, to our places of work, and play, and worship, and help us continue building a growing and vibrant economy in the region.

Earlier this week, and after seven years of working with citizens, community groups, transit advocates, Mayor Sheila Dixon and County Executive James T. Smith Jr., we announced the preferred alternative for Baltimore's Red Line. Consistent with our statewide vision for transportation that includes new roads and mass transit, together we are taking the next step to build a 14-mile east-west light rail system stretching from Woodlawn and Security Square Mall in the west, through downtown Baltimore to Canton and the Bayview Hospital complex to the east.

The Red Line will connect major employment centers, residential communities, other existing transit services, and tourism opportunities. It will run mostly on the surface with tunnels in downtown Baltimore from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Boston Street and a tunnel under Cooks Lane from Edmondson Avenue to I-70. The light rail project we announced this week is unlike the rail projects of old. The Red Line will use sleek, quiet, low-to-the-ground cars, and stations will be designed through a collaborative process with communities so that they become places for people to meet and connect, not places to avoid. Our goal is to create a lasting legacy for our neighborhoods and communities by enhancing mobility and making them more viable.

I know the Red Line alternative has strong supporters and equally strong opponents. Both sides care about their communities and about the future health of the region. But I believe that a well-designed light rail line can bring our communities tremendous benefits at a fraction of the cost of other subway options. This year, new light rail lines will open in Dallas, Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles. These cities, like Baltimore, concluded that light rail was the best way to create a transportation strategy based on connecting people.

In addition, the Red Line has been designed to attract federal funding, and we are assuming that at least half the projected $1.6 billion cost would come from discretionary federal funds that would otherwise go to another state. These are challenging economic times in Maryland and across the country. But we must be in a position to compete with other states when federal funding becomes available. That's why selecting an alternative now and moving forward with planning is vitally important. In fact, we are working closely with our Congressional delegation and the Obama administration because we think this project meets multiple goals in evolving federal policies and funding sources that support a green, energy-independent nation.

Achieving this vision will require a lot of work and strong partnerships between communities and the city, county, state and federal governments. With the selection of this preferred alternative, we have determined a clear direction for the Red Line.

Our plan will be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration this fall for approval so that we can enter the next phase of development. That phase will include more detailed engineering of the Red Line and a thorough analysis of the impacts of this specific alternative. By continuing to work together, we can build a Red Line that will provide positive, sustainable benefits for years to come.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, Annapolis

Still a place for the post office

Although I use e-mail and other electronic marvels, there's still a place for personal letters ("Postal Service going way of pay phones and broadcast TV," Aug. 5). Over the years I've discovered I get better response when I post specific correspondence. Everyone's deluged by e-mail, and way too often I sense my messages disappear in cyberspace. The lack of response is alarming. It seems everyone is so overwhelmed they can't keep up.

When I mail letters at my post office and have the four-digit zip code extension included, I'm usually assured of overnight delivery. Also, when I write a letter there is usually some response, or at least when I call, the recipient has an awareness of who I am. With e-mail it's so easy to feign ignorance or ignore the correspondence completely.

Did it ever occur to the U. S. Postal Service to diversify? One suggestion I'd like the USPS explore would be better utilization of space. The two facilities I frequent might be perfect for outside advertising and marketing. The Post Office brings in thousands of folks and would make a perfect marketing venue.

With creative innovation and some "thinking outside the box" (no pun intended) the U. S. Postal Service might cut its losses. Some of us still write letters and this form of correspondence must never be relegated to a nostalgic past!

R. N. Ellis, Baltimore

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