MDOT documents fail to show review before Red Line decision

      Transportation Alliance - CPHA - 1KF together                                

For Immediate Release

August 31, 2015

 

Contacts:      Rich Hall, Citizens Planning & Housing Association, 410-539-1369 x101 

                    Dru Schmidt-Perkins, 1000 Friends of Maryland, 410-258-8601

                    Brian O’Malley, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, 410-332-4172 x122

 

MDOT documents fail to show review before Red Line decision

 

Despite lengthy delays fulfilling Public Information Act request no documents were provided showing any analysis of the Red Line project before cancelation, supporting the theory that the decision was political.

 

BALTIMORE, MD –The Hogan Administration was asked on July 7th to release the “thorough analysis” that informed the Governor’s decision to cancel the Red Line [PIA request letter attached].  Not surprisingly, nothing in any of the 31 files released last week (available for download, below) suggests any analysis informing the decision to cancel the project.

When the Governor announced the cancelation of the Red Line on June 25th he spoke of his administration’s assessment faulting the project. The documents provided instead show none of the issues were true.

“What I see in the MDOT documents is what we already knew:  the Red Line connects other transportation infrastructure into a system, it underwent peer review and it outcompeted other projects seeking federal funding. There were substantial contingencies built into the financial plan to protect against cost overruns and it addressed a clearly defined regional need. What I do not see are any recommendations to cancel the Red Line or findings that would support such recommendations,” said Brian O’Malley, President of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance. “This is like turning in a paper where you quote a bunch of stuff, but you never state your conclusion or the arguments that support it. Ask any English teacher if that kind of paper deserves a passing grade."

“The lack of evidence of any substantive review of the Red Line proves that this project was canceled to fund the building of questionable new rural highways. Over $1.3 billion dollars of state funding was taken from urgent and long-planned transit needs in the most populated parts of the state and sent to build roads on farm and forest land in other parts of the state, providing very limited transportation benefits,” said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, President of 1000 Friends of Maryland.

“After over a decade of assessing the transit needs of Baltimore this east-west light rail was selected.  The Red Line went through many levels of tough analysis, finally having to compete against transit projects across the country before winning federal funding. To have all this careful and complicated work suddenly thrown out for questionable highway projects is simply bad for all Marylanders,” said Richard Hall, Executive Director of Citizens Planning and Housing Association.

A timeline of Rahn’s statements about the reviews show that the Secretary consistently promised to review the project, but that the Red Line’s review was repeatedly delayed until after the review of the Purple Line was completed.

The Maryland Department of Transportation is required to respond to information requests “immediately” according to Maryland Law.  “An additional reasonable period not to exceed 30 days is available only where the additional period of time is needed to retrieve their record and assess their status under the PIA,” according to the Attorney General’s website. This request was finally filled after 49 days.

Next steps for the Baltimore region

Moving forward, a coalition supporting equitable transportation in the Baltimore region is developing a strategy for next steps. This coalition is led by 1000 Friends of Maryland, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance and Citizens Planning & Housing Association.  

  1. We support the efforts of Baltimore’s elected officials to seek ways to save the Red Line as the most effective means to meet critical transit needs.
  2. If the Red Line is not built the project funds should be redeployed to support other urgently needed transit improvements.
  3. We support legislation to improve the transparency, accountability and performance of major transportation spending.
  4. The Maryland Transit Administration’s performance must be improved and oversight of the agency must be increased.
  5. To increase access to jobs, housing, education and health care, we must meet the goals of the regional effort known as the Opportunity Collaborative. This three-year effort by diverse stakeholders resulted in a plan that was released in June 2015. The goals include:   
  • Create more opportunity for mid-skill workers to commute to family-supporting jobs via public transportation.
  • Shorten commute times and improve transit reliability to reduce the burden on working families.
  • Make the region a more attractive place for employers by expanding transit access to more of the region’s mid-skill labor pool.
  • Increase non-car commuting options to reduce our impact on the Chesapeake Bay and reduce carbon emissions.

These issues will be discussed at a September 15 workshop that Citizens Planning & Housing Association is hosting.   Their website will soon have more details (cphabaltimore.org).

The documents provided are available from the 1000 Friends of Maryland website.