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Alliance seeks $20M a year more for MARC

The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance is lobbying for a $20 million annual investment into the MARC Penn Line, the commuter rail service between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The initiative, called “Let’s Get to Work,” calls for a four-pronged approach to increase transit opportunities in the region, including the addition of weekend and late-night trains, as well as additional trains connecting Baltimore and Perryville and an express line from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. The line stops at Odenton, the BWI Rail Station and Dorsey Station just over the county line near Hanover.

The group, funded by the Baltimore Community Foundation, has been speaking with civic and economic development organizations for the past few months in hopes of advancing the initiative. CEO Michele Whelley will speak to the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce this month.

“We began to realize that a significant portion of the hubs of employment growth (in the region) are accessible to the MARC system. Many of these hubs are a mile from a MARC station,” Whelley said. “This is not the solution for the state’s transportation issues this is a first step that could be accomplished tomorrow.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Maryland Transit Administration spokesman Terry Owens released a statement supporting the efforts of the alliance while remaining skeptical that the funding needed to carry out the initiative would be available.

“The issue is funding,” Owens said. “While our goal is to expand MARC we must weigh such an ongoing investment against the other needs of the MTA.”

Sen. Ed DeGrange, D-Glen Burnie, spoke more plainly about the challenges in finding the money.

“The reality is, there is no funding for any new initiative for any type,” DeGrange said. “There are a number of initiatives that have been around for sometime that are not getting any funding.”

Whelley said the alliance is “painfully aware” of the lack of funding for transportation projects, but argued that the investment is smaller than those for light rail and other transportation projects.

While the initial costs of implementing the initiative would likely have to come from public funds, the alliance wants to explore private investors for additional infrastructure improvements, including those at much needed new station at BWI, Whelley said.

“We’re willing to roll up our shirt sleeves and be in the trenches with our state agencies, including when it’s appropriate to go to private investors,” Whelley said.

In Odenton, the Village at Odenton Station apartment complex and the Town Center Commons townhouse projects are both under construction near the rail station. County Executive John R. Leopold is seeking legislation that would focus impact fee revenues on transportation infrastructure projects, such as a new Odenton rail station.

At the BWI station in Linthicum, state transportation officials are still searching for nearly $300 million needed to install a third platform and to add a fourth track for several miles on either side of the station.

Whelley will speak at the west county chamber’s Tuesday Topics breakfast at 8 a.m. on Feb. 28, at Kaufmann’s Tavern, 329 Gambrills Road in Gambrills.

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