Maryland could get its economy on track and meet many of its transportation needs by expanding commuter rail MARC service in central Maryland with extra weekday and weekend trips, according to a transportation group.
The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance conducted a study that showed the state could do a better job getting workers to employers, which would help growing companies to expand.
The fastest way to meet the state’s transportation needs would be expanding existing train service, said Michele L. Whelley, president and CEO of the advocacy group. The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance describes itself as a coalition of private sector for-profit and nonprofit parties.
“We decided what could be done sooner rather than later,” Whelley said. “We’re certainly in favor of advocating for increased funding to the Transportation Trust Fund, the Purple Line, the Red Line project. But even if all the money was available today, we’re still talking eight to 10 years away. That’s too long away.”
The state’s Transportation Trust Fund has been depleted by governors looking to balance the budget. And the Purple and Red lines are light-rail commuter projects in Washington’s Maryland suburbs and the Baltimore area, respectively.
Using existing tracks and MARC equipment more fully “is a no-brainer,” Whelley said.
“Anything requiring additional capital investment would be difficult to implement in this economy,” she said. “What we came up with was a schedule of improvements that would not require additional capital investment.”
The cost estimates for expanded service was $17 million.
Adding later service hours with round trips between Baltimore’s Penn Station and Washington’s Union Station would assist workers with nontraditional hours, while weekend service would help those who work weekends and travelers seeking entertainment in Washington or Baltimore, she said.
Expanding service between Baltimore and Perryville would accommodate the growing number of jobs associated with Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, she said.
More than 34,000 riders take MARC trains on weekdays, with about 22,000 on the Penn Line, 4,800 on the Camden Line and 7,400 on the Brunswick Line.
In November, state officials announced they would spend $153 million to acquire 54 new multilevel cars to replace older cars that had reached the end of their service.
“Our goal is to double statewide transit ridership by 2020 in order to reduce highway congestion and improve the environment,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a statement.