Back in June, newly elected Maryland Governor Larry Hogan unilaterally cancelled a transit expansion project that Baltimore had been planning for a decade, transferring the state’s promised investment to road projects in more rural parts of the state.
Now a coalition of civil rights groups is challenging the decision on civil rights grounds, saying it amounts to discrimination against Baltimore’s black residents. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Baltimore NAACP, the ACLU of Maryland, and the Baltimore Regional Initiative Developing Genuine Equality (BRIDGE) will file a complaint against the governor with U.S. DOT under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Hogan’s decision to cancel the $2.9 billion Red Line light rail project came after months of evasiveness. The city had spent $230 million planning the 14-mile line and about $900 million in federal funding had been committed. Hogan has since proposed a $135 million system of busways as a substitute.
Legal challenges of this type are rare but not without precedent. The city of Milwaukee prevailed in a similar case in the 1990s, when governor Tommy Thompson cancelled a rail project in the city while proceeding with highway projects elsewhere. As a result of the case, the state was ordered to fund a transit project in the city. That agreement is the reason Milwaukee has been able to proceed with its streetcar plans without interference from Governor Scott “No Train” Walker.