State holds forum on Red Line
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 12:53

 

An artist’s conception shows the potential design of a surface station on the Red Line.

Construction on light rail set to begin in 2015

by Nicole Rodman

Last Monday,  Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) hosted a Red Line Industry Forum at the Baltimore Convention Center.
    The forum, attended by transportation manufacturers, contractors, engineers and investment firms, was designed to provide information on the Red Line project and solicit input from private sector experts.
    The Red Line is a proposed 14-mile light rail system that would stretch east to west across Baltimore City, beginning in Woodlawn and ending around the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center campus.
    According to current plans, the Red Line would have 19 stops, from Woodlawn to West Baltimore, downtown Baltimore, Harbor East, Fells Point and Canton before terminating around Bayview.
    First proposed in 2002, initial plans brought the Red Line into Dundalk. Eventually, budget constraints forced officials to scrap that plan.
    Slowed down by controversy (some residents fear the line would bring increased crime to their area) and funding issues, the project is now gaining traction.
    With new sources of funding being secured, construction is slated to begin in 2015. If all goes according to plan, the Red Line would open for service in 2021.
    At last week’s forum, elected leaders and MTA officials promoted the Red Line project as an economic boost for the city and state.
    “The Red Line is the economic driver that Baltimore needs,” U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings said in a press release issued by Brown’s office. “This transportation system will be critical to moving our community forward. It is time to put our plans into action and our neighbors back to work to construct this lifeline for our City.”
    At the forum, Brown also touted Maryland’s new recently-passed Public-Private Partnership (P3) law.
    Increasingly touted by government officials such as Gov. Martin O’Malley, public-private partnerships are business relationships between the government and private sector entities with the goal of completing a project that will benefit the public.
    Under the new P3 law, the state issued a Request for Information in April seeking input from private sector experts on the Red Line project.
    With an estimated price tag of $2.6 billion for the development and construction of the Red Line, the state is looking to develop public-private partnerships as a way to fund part of the project.
    In addition to P3 funds, the state is also counting on federal funding to cover about 50 percent of Red Line construction.
    On Feb. 28, the Federal Transit Agency issued a Record of Decision noting that the Red Line project has met the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.
    With the issuance of a Record of Decision, the Red Line project is now eligible to receive federal funding.
    With Maryland still responsible for up to 50 percent of Red Line costs, the state is relying on recently-passed gas-tax increases to provide $4.4 billion in new transportation funds over the next six years.
    After signing the legislation into law on May 16, O’Malley announced $1.2 billion in new highway and transit projects, including $170 million for the Red Line.
    The project will be spearheaded by the MTA, which has approached the state for an additional $146.1 million to help fund the design phase of the Red Line project.
    The additional funds were scheduled to be voted on at a Maryland Board of Public Works meeting last Wednesday.
    According to the Board of Public Works agenda for the June 12 meeting, while the MTA signed $140 million in contracts with design consultants in 2010, the agency is now seeking additional funds that would extend the contracts through 2018.
    This would include an additional $112.6 million for contracts with engineering companies Parsons Brinckerhoff Americas, Inc. and Rummel Klepper & Kahl, LLP. and $33.5 million for contracts with engineering firms STV Inc. and Jacobs Engineering Group.
    For elected leaders and state officials, the Red Line project is a way to improve Maryland infrastructure while partnering with private sector experts.
    “The Red Line presents a significant opportunity to create jobs, connect communities, expand economic opportunities and reduce traffic congestion,” Brown noted in remarks at last week’s forum. “Maryland is serious about investing in a modern transportation system, and the turnout here today is an indication of the private sector’s interest in partnering with us to deliver these critical public infrastructure projects.”
    For more information in the Red Line light rail project, visit www.
baltimoreredline.com.

Artists’ renderings of the two proposed Red Line stops near Bayview depict (left) a station in the middle of the hospital campus and (right) a new MARC train station at the northern edge of the Bayview campus.