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New Governor Promises To Revive Major Baltimore Transit Project

Wes Moore, who is preparing to take office next month after winning Maryland’s gubernatorial election in November.

Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore, who is preparing to take over as the state’s top executive next month, reiterated his intent to breathe new life into the Red Line light rail expansion, a project that activists and developers have said could create a “jobs corridor.”

Throughout his campaign, Moore, a Democrat elected in November, promised to restart work on a roughly 14-mile, east-to-west transit line connecting western Baltimore County and east Baltimore that was estimated to cost $2.9B. The cost estimate has increased by nearly $1B in the years since it was canceled, according to The Washington Post.

“We are going to get it done in our term. It is not a compromise,” Moore said in a recent interview with Bloomberg News.

However, Moore and his team haven’t promised to revive the Red Line exactly as proposed before its cancellation. According to the Washington Post, state officials continue to examine various options, including a mix of rail and bus services to improve east-west transit service.

“We’re going to start with the plan that has already been previously approved. But if that’s not meeting the needs of the community, at the end of the day, we’re going to have to go back and look at it again,” Moore spokesperson Carter Elliott told the newspaper.

Transit activists argue the Red Line fills a gap in the metro area’s often maligned transit system. Additionally, some developers insist that improved transit would cut building costs by reducing the need to build parking.

Red Line backers contend the line provides economic development stimulus by connecting disinvested areas of the city in west Baltimore with jobs downtown and in east Baltimore. 

In his interview with Bloomberg, Moore didn’t share specifics about how he intended to jump-start the derailed light rail extension. 

However, Maryland has received an influx of cash from the federal government after Congress and President Joe Biden approved several pieces of legislation providing states with billions of dollars for infrastructure projects.

Supporters of the Red Line were outraged when Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, nixed the Red Line shortly after taking office nearly eight years ago.

At that time, Hogan rejected nearly $1B in federal funds that paid for a substantial portion of the line’s construction, essentially killing the project. The governor also reallocated state funds from the Red Line primarily to road maintenance and construction in rural and suburban areas of Maryland. 

Then-Baltimore Corps. CEO Fagan Harris, whom Moore has selected to serve as his chief of staff, was among those who criticized Hogan’s actions. 

“We have to honor the fact that we lost the Red Line. [But] it didn’t die. It was killed,” Harris said during a 2018 panel.

Developers also expressed disappointment in the decision and argued that transit makes building more straightforward and cheaper in the city. 

Thibault Manekin, a co-founder of Seawall Development, is among those who have advocated for more transit spending on projects like the Red Line. 

“It’s going to make development easier, because it really challenges developers to build parking garages,” Manekin said in the spring of 2018. 

Manekin and his family were among the developers and commercial real estate interests who overwhelmingly financially supported Moore over Republican nominee Dan Cox.  

“It’s an investment in who I believe should be leading the state of Maryland,” Donald Manekin, co-founder of Seawall and Thibault Manekin's father, told Bisnow this fall.