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NAACP says scrapping Red Line violated civil rights

P. Kenneth Burns

A coalition of civil rights groups and Baltimore residents filed a federal complaint Monday claiming Gov. Larry Hogan's decision to cancel the planned Red Line light rail project discriminated against the city's African-American residents.

Hogan canceled plans for the transit project in June, reallocating the more than $1.2 billion the state was expected to pay toward the Red Line toward highways, roads and bridges in rural and suburban areas instead.

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund associate counsel Ajmel Quereshi emphasized that Baltimore won't see any of that money.

The Red Line would have run 14 miles east to west, from Bayview to Woodlawn.

"By the time that the Red Line would have been completed and the governor's Highway, Bridges and Roads Initiative will be completed, on average 7.9 or over 7.9 million trips by African-American residents of the state of Maryland will be affected every single year," Quereshi said.

Filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Civil Rights, the complaint asks the agency to investigate whether the decision violated federal law.

“Ultimately, this so-called complaint has absolutely zero credibility or legal standing and is essentially nothing more than a press release," Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said in a statement. He said the Red Line project was poorly designed and too expensive, particularly thanks to a billion-dollar tunnel planned to run under downtown.

Quereshi said the groups want the state to revive the Red Line, "or at least devote all of that money to improving Baltimore's vastly in need of improvement public transportation system."