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Group Pushes for Expanded MARC Service

Under a plan proposed by a group of business and civic leaders in Maryland, MARC train would add weekend and late-night service.

The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance (CMTA) is pushing for an expansion of rail service in the state, and contends that it can be done with current infrastructure and relatively little new money.

The group said an expansion of MARC service would ease the region’s transportation woes without placing additional pressure on strained budgets. Expanded service could be created, the group said, with less than $20 million.

“The infrastructure is there,” CMTA President and CEO Michelle Whelley said. “We don’t have to spend million of dollars. We have a system that can be improved upon right now.”

Whelley spoke Tuesday morning at a meeting of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce at Kaufmann's Tavern in Gambrills. 

Plans from CMTA call for weekend service and expanded night service on the MARC Penn Line and Brunswick Line. Those lines, Whelley said, serve several of the major population and business centers in the Baltimore-Washington region, including Odenton and Fort Meade.

The expansion could be accomplished, Whelley said, with existing train stock and tracks.

Whelley acknowledged that more riders would not by itself justify the expansion. But, she said the region would benefit in indirect ways. For instance, transit-oriented development projects—such as the one planned near the Odenton MARC station—would be more viable financially with increased ridership.

Business leaders in the state have been pushing for new revenue to be set aside for transportation improvements, and have also called for the state to protect money placed in the Transportation Trust Fund.

Whelley said she supported those efforts, but that the MARC expansion offered a quicker path to providing some relief of traffic congestion.

“This is a near-term solution that can be put in place while we work on longer-term solutions,” Whelley said.

Thus far, officials from the Maryland Transit Administration and Maryland Department of Transportation have been relatively silent on the issue of MARC expansion.

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

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