Baltimore Red Line Transit Project

Authors: Baltimore City Department of Transportation, Baltimore City Health Department, Anna Ricklin

Location: Baltimore , Maryland, United States

Photo Credit:
Proposed Red Line Station

Completion Date: December 2008

HIA Report: Baltimore Red Line Transit Project HIA

Summary of the HIA

Proposed Policy or Project

The proposed red line is a 14-mile east-west transit line connecting various suburban neighborhoods in Baltimore County to downtown and where jobs are. Construction will provide connections between the Woodlawn area of Baltimore County, West Baltimore communities, downtown Baltimore, Inner Harbor East, Fells Point, Canton, the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. According to the Red Line Corridor Transit Study Alternatives Analysis/ Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the proposed Red Line will connect directly to the already existing Light Rail, Metro Subway and MARC Train – making a more comprehensive transit system for public transit users.

The Red Line corridor project is geared towards increasing transportation options, improving efficiency of current transit system and helping to address the community’s air quality concerns.

Background and Policy Context

Many of the residents in the Red Line Corridor use public transit as their sole means of transportation. According to the 2000 Census, an estimated one third of people living in Baltimore City neighborhoods along the Corridor do not use a car to get to work. Additionally, about 50% of those who are not currently using cars depend on transit to commute to their jobs. The downtown Baltimore area is a major employment center for government, office and healthcare workers, and retail and service workers. The residential population, as well as the central business district, is experiencing steady growth. 

Scope and Methods

The scoping and screening process involved a review of the Red Line proposal and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS); residential interviews, public comments from community meetings, expert input, and modeling health and transit links. Following the decision to focus on impacts to the Baltimore City residents, extensive literature review and analysis of census and local data on Baltimore health were conducted.

Focus of HIA:

  • Improving access and opportunities for safe outdoor activity
  • Construction issues
  • Improving air quality

The City of Baltimore Department of Planning had divided the city into 55 Community Statistical Areas (CSA) based on existing neighborhood boundaries. For the most part, this HIA utilized data based on these jurisdictions. This information offers some description of the population most closely impacted by the Red Line – those who live through the construction period and start of service for the new transit line.

Summary of Findings

Access and Opportunities for Safe Outdoor Activity:

Having infrastructure that provides opportunities for safe outdoor activity and access to healthy foods will lead to a healthier community. A project such as the Baltimore Red Line is likely to improve the health of the community by providing opportunities for safe outdoor activity and increased access to nutritious foods.

Construction Issues:

Air quality, noise, and the presence of rodents can be unfavorably impacted from construction. Health effects include respiratory problems, disturbance of sleep and concentration, and the potential for rodents to spread disease. Knowing the potential for such impacts in advance, however, allows for better planning and mitigation in order to diminish negative outcomes.

Improving Air Quality:

Despite projections for nearly negligible improvements to regional air quality as a result of building the Red Line, improvements to local air quliaty could be significant. Studies show that individuals, and particularly children, living near major thoroughfares have higher rates of asthma and respiratory disease than people living farther from main roads. Without the Red Line, traffic models predict tend of thousands more cars per day traversing the corridor by 2030. Thus, a transit project that leads to traffic reductions could improve the health of residents living on and along the proposed route.

Decisions/Actions following the release of the HIA

Update (Aug 4, 2009): Governor Martin O’Malley announced the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for Baltimore’s Red Line will be a 14-mile, east-west light rail line operating between Woodlawn to the west and the John Hopkins Bayview medical complex to the east.

The project is currently in the process of transitioning from the DEIS phase to the Preliminary Engineering (PE) phase, which must occur before the FEIS process. With the selection of the LPA, the project will be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) under the “New Starts” process and will be seeking approval to begin preliminary engineering. This $1.6 billion project will compete for federal funding. 

Products Produced

Policy Brief: 
Public Meeting/testimony: 

Background Reports


Anna Ricklin

Health and Environment Specialist - Dept of Transportation


(443) 984-0098