A reimagining of the long-awaited Red Line transportation system could connect Howard County to eastern Baltimore County.
The proposed expansion is part of a 25-year regional transportation plan released by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. The plan also includes a multibillion transit corridor connecting Towson to Baltimore City.
“The Baltimore Regional Transportation Board is concerned about the lack of progress in the region,” Regina Aris, assistant director of transportation planning for the council, during a virtual briefing last week. “They see a lot of money going to Washington DC area jurisdictions, a lot of money going to the Purple Line.”
A long-range plan for the central Maryland region dedicates nearly $4 billion to two major transit lines.
The East-West Transit Corridor system is one of more than 90 major transit plans part of the council’s Resilience 2050 plan. The document highlights a 25-year plan of regional road and transit projects in the central Maryland region.
The council is composed of leaders of seven major jurisdictions — Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Queen Anne’s Counties, as well as Baltimore City. The panel is mandated by federal law to develop transit and transportation plans based on population and other trends.
“Planning the transportation system for 20 plus years is a complex task,” said Zach Kaufman, a senior transportation planner at the council. “We consider many factors and trends that may affect the regional transportation network in the future. Planning for the future requires forecasts of where people might live and work over the time period covered” by the plan.
Over those two decades, the population of the region is projected to grow by 358,000 people or about 13%. The number of households in the region is expected increase by 15%, meaning smaller household sizes.
The region is also expected to add 374,000 jobs, an increase of about 26%.
Short-term plans look forward over a four-year period and include projects that are under construction or will be soon. Longer range plans look forward 25 years.
The costs are estimates and based on projected available funding over the next quarter century.
The plan is the focus of a set of public hearings that kicks off Wednesday night in Westminster.
The plan includes 56 road and 36 transit projects — all considered priorities for governments in the region — totaling more than $70 billion over the 25-year period, according to Kaufman.
All the road projects involve widening or improvements to existing thoroughfares.
Projects in the proposal include:
- An express bus line connecting Columbia to the NSA and Parole, near Annapolis at a cost of $45 million.
- A $147 million interchange along 695 to support the redevelopment of the Sparrows Point area of southeastern Baltimore County.
- Replacing 95% of the existing MTA bus fleet with zero emission vehicles by 2050. In the first phase, the state looks to spend nearly $1.6 billion to replace 50% of its 760-vehicle fleet by 2030. A second phase would bring the total to 95% at an additional cost of more than $2.2 billion. The costs include buses and construction of charging facilities.
In an initial phase, officials envision the development of an East-West Transit corridor. A second phase would include a north-south transit corridor.
The East-West project is the heir to the Red Line light rail project killed in 2015 by then-Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
The 14.1-mile light rail project would have connected Bayview Hospital in East Baltimore to Woodlawn in western Baltimore County. Hogan, faced with two multi-billion light rail projects including the Purple Line in the DC suburbs, canceled the Red Line, calling it “a boondoggle.”
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