The Final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed 14-mile Red Line in Baltimore has just been released and it contains some important new information.
Here are a few highlights:
• The cost of the project has escalated from $2.2 billion to $2.5 billion (as The Brew first reported in October).
• Daily ridership is down to 50,000 from 60,000, but up from 37,000 when the analysis of alternatives was originally performed.
• The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) is sticking to its highly optimistic schedule of construction beginning in 2015 and the line open in 2021. (This was done because, if the project were delayed, the Federal Transit Administration would require the MTA to factor inflation into the cost estimate.)
• There is no projected state revenue estimate – including any proposed tax increases – that would allow the MTA to meet this construction schedule.
• The Red Line no longer meets the FTA’s cost effectiveness standard, since repealed. The current CE is 30. Previously it was 23, with the FTA standard of 24.
• The MTA is now, for the first time, opening up the option of building the Red Line in phases, which would result in the initial downtown tunneling phase dominating the total cost.
• There are two fewer stations and the stations have shrunk to 194-foot-long platforms, which would accommodate only two car trains, compared to existing light-rail platforms of about 300 feet and heavy-rail platforms of about 400 feet. The stations eliminated (this has actually already been announced) are University of Maryland at Lombard near Greene and Government Center at Lombard near Market Place.
• The impact statement contains a tortuous discussion of how the Red Line can eliminate traffic lanes on Edmondson Avenue and Boston Street – yet still reduce congestion relative to the “No Build Alternative.”
This amounts to a severe “apples to oranges” comparison, conducted by torturing the data derived from cramming the Red Line where it simply does not fit. A bottom-line excerpt:
“Based on the Design Year forecast, it is anticipated that with the Preferred Alternative the total number of vehicles on all roadways within the vicinity of the alignment would be generally less than under No-Build conditions. The travel demand model predicts that some of the motorists on these roadways would either ride LRT or take alternate routes to avoid delays because of the LRT along various routes.
“For example, along Boston Street, the Build volumes would be 20% less than the No-Build volumes, with the addition of the Red Line and the reduction in total number of lanes from four to two lanes to accommodate LRT track.
“I-70 (+30%) and Fleet Street (+7%) would have an increase in ADT [average daily traffic] in the Build condition versus No-Build, whereas most of the other roadways along the proposed LRT alignment, such as Edmondson Avenue, Franklin Street, Boston Street, and Bayview Boulevard, are anticipated to have lower ADTs.
“With the expansion and relocation of park-and-ride on I-70 in the Preferred Alternative, it is anticipated that there would be significant increase in ADT on I-70. Fleet Street and President Street would have a minimal increase in ADT because of the change in traffic patterns to utilize transit.”