Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Don’t just talk about Baltimore: Invest in it

Most of us have been appalled and disgusted by the racist and derogatory comments concerning the city of Baltimore that have been emanating from the White House in recent weeks.  I only comment on this topic because it is connected to transportation.  How, you might ask?
Those of us who know Baltimore are aware both of its many charms (“Charm City”) and its many problems.  A lot of these problems are related to concentrated poverty and economic disadvantage in the city.  This poverty and economic disadvantage can and should be addressed by targeted public investment, including upgrading the transportation network so that it can support revitalization.
Has the state of Maryland been providing this targeted investment to its central city?  In fact, the opposite is happening.  As David Alpert points out with great clarity on his Greater Great Washington blog (here), the state has been systematically disinvesting in transportation in the city and redistributing resources to suburban counties.  The cruelest disinvestment has been the defunding of the Red Line light rail initiative, which would link key city and suburban activity centers with a modern transit line while tying together the various area transit lines into a real network.  The most blatant redistribution is the plan to support colossal highway widening projects in the wealthiest suburban counties.
Yes, racist and inappropriate language should be called out.  More importantly, we should be using public investment as a tool to build infrastructure that supports opportunity and equitable economic growth where it is most needed.