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Baltimore Officials Disappointed With State After Transportation Meeting

P. Kenneth Burns
Credit P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

Elected leaders from Baltimore city and county left a meeting with state transportation officials Monday disappointed because no one offered an alternative to the Red Line project shelved byGov. Larry Hogan. But state Transportation Secretary PeteRahnsaid they shouldn’t have been surprised. He sent them an agenda last week.

During the meeting, Rahn gave them a list of “suggested options and outcomes” and asked them to “please rank top five options.”

State Sen. Bill Ferguson said he “went into this meeting really hopeful that we would be able to have a regional conversation about how to move forward from the governor’s decision to cancel the Red Line project.  I think my hope was pretty ill-advised.”

Ferguson, who represents Baltimore City, began tweeting what was going on after reporters were asked to leave. Within 20 minutes, Ferguson tweeted “frustrations are escalating quickly.”

But Rahn said Ferguson and the others “should have read the agenda” he said he sent them Friday.

“In my mind, we made it pretty clear; we were there to listen,” he said.  “This was about us hearing from them about what they felt needed to be fixed with the Baltimore transit system, which desperately needs to be fixed.”

Ferguson said Rahn’s listening was “not an effective means of moving towards actionable solutions” and dismissed the meeting as “a structure to delay any action.”

He wasn’t the only one frustrated by the meeting.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz complained in a statement the Hogan administration “is not interested in taking a comprehensive look at 21st century options for the Baltimore region.”

Howard Libit, spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said she was “extremely disappointed” that the secretary didn’t present more concrete ideas to improve public transit.

He said “the only concrete thing” Rawlings-Blake took from the meeting was that the state was going to try to make the buses run a little bit more efficiently. 

“They should have been doing that already,” Libit said.

Gov. Hogan killed the $2.9 billion Red Line project, designed to connect east and west Baltimore, in June and dispersed state money set aside for the project to road projects in suburban and rural areas.

In doing that, he passed on $900 million in federal funds for the project he called “a wasteful boondoggle.”

Rahn said the state will present a plan to improve MTA services in 60 days, adding that the improvements will be made in “months, not years.”

Copyright 2015 WYPR - 88.1 FM Baltimore

P. Kenneth Burns
Kenneth Burns is WYPR's Metro Reporter; covering issues that affect Baltimore City, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.