It started months ago with approval of a new way to finance a billion dollars worth of public school construction in Baltimore. And yesterday, a half-billion dollars from this year’s boost in gasoline and transit taxes was formally earmarked for the Red Line light rail system. Both are essential to making Baltimore attractive to working families with kids.
There’s an element of risk-reward, to be sure.
The transit line could stimulate economic development all along the 14-mile route. If it works as planned, it will be more than a transit line. It will be a real estate initiative as well. Business groups say individual business people will want to be near the station stops.
By catering to a new urban lifestyle – very transit-dependent – it becomes something of an experiment: Will people really leave their cars behind? Will their patronage be sufficient to keep the system afloat?
There is far less doubt about the line’s value to working people. Many of them need a way to reach their jobs at places like Hopkins Bayview Hospital, a complex which has probably grown far larger than many even in the city realize.
For a willingness to venture down this track, Baltimoreans might well bow to the beauties of a one-party state. The school construction money mechanism, and now the $1.5 billion for transit related projects throughout the metropolitan area, come to us via an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.
The projects have merit, of course, but that’s not always enough in politics. Some small local spending projects – plus the pointed urging of party leaders – brought the votes the governor needed.
O’Malley sought yesterday to cushion the impact of his mega spending linking it with job creation – 13,000 he suggested as he unveiled the details in Baltimore.
New schools, mass transit, 13,000 jobs? Nice to have somebody watching Baltimore’s back.
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