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WYPR's Senior News Analyst opines on recent Maryland news.

Kamenetz Proposal On Red Line Lacks Vision

Tom Chalkley

Public officials should be in the business of thinking about the future.

They should be willing players in what President George H.W. Bush called “the vision thing.” Otherwise, we’re all treading water, waiting for the right moment to have foresight. In some important areas, the moment never came.

For example:

Unlike Boston, New York, Denver, San Francisco and many other major cities, this region never came to terms with the need for a real transportation system. Baltimore and most Baltimore region officials know this now.

So, there’s a catch-up plan. One of its most important elements: the Red Line, providing light rail and subway between the federal bureaucracy at Social Security and Johns Hopkins Bayview. These points on the compass happen to be major employment centers.

It is catch-up. And it’s forward-looking. Many new Baltimoreans live along the line. They’re not car-centric. So, while belated, the line comes in a timely fashion for the city’s new population of millennials and empty nesters.

All good.

But now comes Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz threatening to withhold his county’s share of the cost. Instead of $50 million, Kamenetz proposes $26.5. Most of that is “in kind” – sidewalks, stormwater improvements, and the like. Baltimore’s share is $200 million – in cash as far as we know. The federal share is about 34 percent of the $2.6 million total, or about $900 million. But the check is not in hand. Potential roadblocks such as the Kamenetz move could be a set back – because Washington dislikes drama and confusion.

A Kamenetz spokesman says it’s all about protecting the county taxpayer. Fair enough. But taxes will rise if the economy lags; jobs will be lost and businesses will stay away if we don’t get a transportation system.

A more prosperous future and the quality of life are at stake.

Your comments are invited at [email protected].