Gov. Martin O'Malley today announced the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has given its approval for the Baltimore Red Line to move forward and enter the engineering phase. Formally known as "preliminary engineering," the phase includes preparation of more detailed plans, schedules and cost estimates as well as completion of final environmental studies.
"For the past two years the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has been working to comply with rigorous FTA requirements," said Gov. O'Malley. "By granting permission for a project to enter preliminary engineering, the FTA signals that the project has merit and a high likelihood of ultimate success."
The FTA review of the Red Line proposal focused on the projects ridership and benefits as well as the state's financial commitment and technical capacity to build and operate the project.
The proposed Red Line is a 14.5 mile, east-west transit line connecting the areas of Woodlawn, Edmondson Village, West Baltimore, downtown Baltimore, Inner Harbor East, Fells Point, Canton and the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Campus. When constructed, the Red Line will run mostly in dedicated surface rights of way with tunnels under Cooks Lane, downtown and Fells Point. The Red Line, expected to be completed in 2020, will carry 57,000 riders per day in 2030 and cost approximately $1.8 billion in Year 2010 dollars. Accounting for inflation, the cost is approximately $2.2 billion. The current ridership forecast is slightly down from the prior forecast of 60,000 riders per day based on input from the FTA.
"Getting the go-ahead from FTA to enter this next significant phase of the Red Line project is great news for Baltimore and the region," said Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "The fact that the Red Line has progressed to this stage underscores the quality and competitiveness of this muchneeded transit project that will help create jobs and economic development for Baltimore's future."
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin said, "Baltimore has been underserved by public transit. We are now closer to having a truly integrated, regional transit system that will help transform our city and our region, adding a convenient, affordable east-west alternative to the ever-increasing gridlock. The Red Line will improve the flow of our local transportation, help reduce congestion and improve air quality by taking thousands of cars off the road, and provide Maryland with a jumpstart in developing a new, more energy efficient economy that creates jobs for Marylanders."
"The Red Line is now one of fewer than 40 projects in the country that has received FTA approval to advance to the next stage of the project development process known as New Starts — one of the most rigorous review processes conducted by the federal government," said Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (7th District). "We are one step closer to making an investment that will bring jobs and opportunities to our community."
In addition to preparing various required management plans and conceptual plans, the MTA has launched a public involvement initiative centered around the 20 proposed stations. More than 250 citizen volunteers are participating on 17 Station Area Advisory Committees. The committees are providing input on both how the Red Line can support their vision for the future of their communities as well as design options such as the location of station platforms and safe pedestrian access. The committee members presented their preliminary finding at open houses held along the corridor in May. MTA is also preparing detailed criteria that will shape the design work. In collaboration with Baltimore city, a hallmark of the project is a high standard for "green" design for elements such as landscaping and stormwater management, alternative energy, lighting, use of recycled materials and accommodation for bicycles.
Preliminary engineering is expected to take approximately two years and is followed by final design, during which plans are finalized and put out to bid. The Maryland Department of Transportation's (MDOT) capital budget includes funding for the preliminary engineering, final design phases and rightof-way phases, and construction funding will be addressed by 2015 when it is first needed. Assuming state and federal funding is available and following the award of contracts and construction, the Red Line is expected to be completed around 2020. Information prepared during preliminary engineering forms the basis of FTA's decision to fund a project which typically occurs during final design.
Maryland's rapid transit expansion initiatives also include the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway, both located in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The Purple Line is at a similar level of development, and is expected to receive approval to advance to preliminary engineering later this summer. MTA is nearing completion of planning work for the Corridor Cities Transitway, and preparation of materials for FTA review will start later this year.