Maryland is not known as a mass transportation innovator. Despite having the longest average commute times in the nation, its transit projects have traditionally produced mediocre performance for their massive costs. The MARC, the Baltimore Metro subway, and the Light Rail have long under-performed the potential they once promised, and their aging infrastructure questions the wisdom of any continued development.
In recent years, the state’s transportation planning has been consumed with two projects that seemed antiquated from the start. The Purple Line in Montgomery County will connect three lines of Washington’s Metrorail, allowing commuters to transfer between them without first having to enter the District. With a cost of $5.6 billion for a light rail line traveling just 16.2 miles, it’s the most expensive government contract ever undertaken in Maryland. Yet it’s little more than a Band-Aid on an ailing Metrorail system plagued by chronic service disruptions, extended track closures and highly publicized safety lapses.
The Red Line was an east-west light rail line proposed for Baltimore City. The 14.5 mile long route was expected to cost at least $2.2 billion before it was canceled in 2015. With each of these projects, the state spent well over a decade in planning and design phases, and the construction schedule was estimated to take at least six years. To put it another way, it will take the state more than a year to lay just three miles of track. By comparison, the first transcontinental railroad was completed in less time, laying around 300 miles of track per year, using far more manual labor and less advanced machinery.
But Maryland now has the opportunity to take a leading role in the future of transportation. Suddenly, not just one, but two high speed rail projects have been proposed for our area, each of which has the potential to transform the East Coast by linking its metro regions like never…