Who is going to pay for Baltimore's light rail Red Line?

Who's going to pay for Baltimore’s proposed light rail Red Line?

A deadline has come and gone for the Maryland Transit Administration to submit information on how to finance Baltimore’s planned east-west light rail.

The Red Line is now expected to cost a $1 billion more than its initial projection.

The red line is a planned light rail line that would extend from the Woodlawn area in the west, tunnel under downtown, and then to Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital in the east.

The initial projection was that it would cost $1.6 billion to build it.

The MTA now expects the cost to be $2.6 billion, with construction scheduled to start next year.

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Now the MTA is calling on Baltimore City to contribute $200 million to the project, and Baltimore County to contribute $50 million.

As part of the state budget, on July 1 the MTA was supposed to detail how -- and indeed whether -- the city and county would be contributing that money to the project.

Baltimore City leaders still support the plan but have not said where that $200 million will come from.

The Baltimore County Executive was much less receptive to the idea of finding its $50 million. A spokeswoman said that the red line was "always supposed to be financed with state and federal funds."

Last month it became clear that the MTA would not have a definitive plan to submit to the budget committees in Annapolis on July 1. The agency asked for an extension.

The administration has until Sept. 1 to submit the details of how to pay for the Red Line.

A budget analyst with the Department of Legislative Services said the July 1 deadline was really just calling for a status report. The MTA could have just told legislators it didn't know exactly how the project would be paid for, and that would have been enough to comply with the law.

He said the fact that the agency didn't do that -- and instead plans to report on Sept. 1 -- actually means it is still in discussions with the city and county, trying to find a way to make the plan work.

Years and years of environmental studies have been completed and the project remains in line for a $900 million commitment from the federal government.

So it might be a delay but for now the red line remains on track.

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