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Mayor: We Were Optimistic About Red Line Investment

P. Kenneth Burns

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday that she supports the claim of a coalition of civil rights groups that Governor Larry Hogan’s decision to cancel the Red Line transit project discriminates against African Americans.

The groups, led by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, filed a federal complaint Monday claiming that the cancellation of the east-west light rail line discriminated against the city’s African-American residents because the $1.2 billion allocated for the project was transferred to road projects in the mostly white suburbs and rural parts of the state.

The mayor said cancelling the project hurt a spirit of optimism that the Red Line would help the city.

“We had that optimism because under two different administrations – a Republican administration and a Democratic administration previous to this one – there were commitments made that a transformative infrastructure project was coming to the city,” she said.

Rawlings-Blake, among the most vocal critics of Hogan’s decision, is still not a fan of the Baltimore Link system he proposed in October. Hogan and state Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn said their $135 million plan to overhaul the city’s transit system would help 800,000 people.

But the mayor said Baltimore Link “pales in comparison” to the Red Line project.  She said replacing “a significant infrastructure project” with “shiny new buses” doesn’t make sense if “you say you are concerned about the future of young people in Baltimore.”

“I would think that your level of investment would be reflective of that concern,” she added.

But Rawlings-Blake said it would be up to the people who depend on public transportation to decide if the Baltimore Link system suits their needs.