From Christopher Boardman:
Republicans and other so-called conservatives have railed against my points in favor of the Red Line. One of their criticisms is that it costs too much to build. Imagine, the proposed tunnel for the Red Line WOULD COST ONE BILLION DOLLARS! These people should know that One Billion Dollars is mere chump change. They supported The Iraq War (including the not-so-bright mostly Democratic members of Congress) which has rung up to Two Trillion Dollars on the taxpayers’ tax bills. Now how much is Two Trillion? It is One Billion Dollars times Two Thousand. And what have we gotten for this Two Trillion?
We have ISIS beheadings, Syria civil war, destruction of ancient archeological sites, Mid East in chaos, sectarian wars in Iraq, reintroduction of torture from the Middle Ages, a huge refugee crisis that threatens to upset the political order in Europe, and continuing threats to our security. That was real bright, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Bill Krystol, Benjamin Netanyahu, Paul Wolfowitz et al. The taxpayers are still paying for this and will continue to do so, and the world continues to suffer and people suffer indescribable losses. If One Two Thousandth of that amount were spent on the Red Line tunnel, the rail line would serve the public for maybe two hundred years and Baltimore’s infrastructure would be improved. In my previous posting (“The Remarkable Value of a Hole in the Ground”), I pointed out that the Fort McHenry Tunnel was built in 1985 for three quarters of a billion dollars, which easily could be 1.5 billion in today’s dollars. No one complains about that It was a great infrastructure improvement. As for the C & D Canal, one responder totally missed the point about that which is that the Port of Baltimore clearly owes 40 percent of its traffic due to the canal. The cash registers have been ringing in both the public and private sectors because of that canal for nearly 200 years. Where are the deficit hawks now?
I’ll tell you one place they were not at, and that was at demonstrations opposing the Iraq War. I was down there in Washington in 2003 with my signs, trying to stop the senseless slaughter, destruction and waste of money. One guy I didn’t see down there either was Larry Hogan or Bob Cassilly or all the penny pinchers who are so concerned about a billion bucks when their government is squandering 2 Trillion. We missed you, Larry. We could have used some of that money to improve the infrastructure of Baltimore and Central Maryland.
Some of the replies stated the Red Line wouldn’t help traffic congestion generally or Harford County in particular. I differ with that. Anything we can do to reduce traffic congestion helps everybody generally. Okay, traveling from east to west and back from Woodlawn to Hopkins Bayview – East Baltimore on the Red Line seems only to benefit people living near the line (and who would want to be one of them anyway?). Traveling from east to west is a nightmare of poor transit connections and the problems should be fixed. Anyway, it’s peoples’ fault they cannot afford a car even though they are working in essential jobs such as in prisons. That’s why the Red Line was designed, to correct some great inadequacies in the Baltimore regional transit network. All you rich Harford County suburbanites with big lawns and living near farms way out don’t have to worry about that, but it should worry you. There is not so much space left to build out on and there are only costly roads that have to be built and widened and repaired, not to mention the congestion when people are trying to drive to and from their palaces to jobs in Baltimore or on the other side of Baltimore. I am disappointed too that the Red Line does not serve Harford County, but as one reader pointed out MARC improvements can go forward on a line that was built for an earlier time.
Also, if you were paying attention in the election campaign last year I proposed that a spur line be built to connect Bel Air with the Hunt Valley light rail. But respondents in Darlington were mostly against that because it would supposedly enable darker skinned people from the city to invade our pristine suburban neighborhoods and steal our treasures. (I was having trouble imagining dark skinned people toting TV sets from homes in the area to light rail stations and traveling with them on light rail cars, but this is something people have nightly nightmares over.) A Bel Air spur on the light rail would enable people who live in Harford County to travel to Hunt Valley for work or to the city or to the state office building complex or to Howard Street, or to attend baseball and football games downtown. You could even travel to the BWI airport. It wasn’t such a bad idea, and we need to think about those kinds of improvements for the future.
Now for the Red Line, what other benefits would that bring? Very simply, it would help to revitalize Baltimore and Central Maryland. Not only would people get to and from their jobs more easily. The line would help to create many more jobs in many more ways. First of all, all that money that Larry Hogan doesn’t want to squander would be spent putting people to work building The Red Line. That money recirculates from wages to various businesses in the city and Maryland. The new rail stations also become hubs of activity, not just for travelers but for employers and retailers. Since it is easier for people to travel a work force can be accessed more easily, leading to the creation of new industries and businesses. This kind of investment and reinvestment will have many unknown benefits. There are a lot of reasons why this will work. The creation of new jobs will not only help people in Central Maryland but also relieve unemployment in the city and help break the debilitating cycles of poverty that drag everyone down.
It should also be said that the lessening of reliance on automobiles will help reduce carbon emissions and benefit the environment. This is not an effort to replace the car as a primary means of transportation but we need a better blend of other modes of transit to improve the overall mix. I travel frequently by car from Frederick on I 70 and see lots of rush hour congestion on I 70. If we had a light rail line from I 70 Frederick and perhaps also further out, we could have a connection to the Red Line from Woodlawn which would enable travelers to get throughout the city to East Baltimore and beyond.
In the history of Baltimore, there were many examples of trolley lines being built on the streets to enhance local transportation. In some places of the city there are still some old tracks left. My understanding is that the Rockefellers and Standard Oil were instrumental in persuading the city to dismantle the old trolley lines not only here but in other cities in the U.S. All of this was to encourage automobile traffic. But at one time public transportation was important because people did not have cars. We can’t go back to the past but we can recapture some of the better ideas from the past for our use in the future.