A MARC train is shown here. (Courtesy of Maryland Transit Administration)
A MARC train is shown here. (Courtesy of Maryland Transit Administration)

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland leaders are pushing a plan to expand MARC train service into the District and northern Virginia, but whether it would be possibly this year remains uncertain.

Del. Jared Solomon (D-Montgomery County) offers proposed legislation to not only improve service in Maryland, but also work on negotiations for commuter travel into L’Enfant Plaza in southwest D.C. and then across the Virginia border in Crystal City and Alexandria.

In addition, it would help expand Maryland’s economy, provide job access and personal travel throughout the D.C. and Baltimore regions.

“It’s not like we’re pulling teeth with this,” Solomon said at a press conference Thursday, Feb. 5. “All the parties are willing and able. This is just sort of a final little push to express the will of the General Assembly to get this done.”

The goal would be to transport the MARC train along the Long Bridge, a two-track railroad bridge owned by CSX Transportation that stretches above the Potomac River utilized by Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express.

The D.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration continue working on a comprehensive study to determine whether to renovate or construct new bridges.

According to Solomon’s legislation for Maryland’s involvement, the goal would be for the Maryland Transit Administration, which manages the MARC train system, to “engage in good faith negotiations” officials in D.C., Virginia and CSX to create a pilot program for Maryland Area Regional Commuter train service.

Business leaders, labor representatives, rider advisory committees and regional planning boards would also be consulted on the plan, which is slated to be completed by June 2022, according to the legislation.

According to the fiscal note, the state may spend $450,000 in fiscal 2021 and $400,000 the following year on contractual services “for legal, project management, correspondence and planning activities related to the discussions and negotiations.”

MARC operates three lines — Brunswick, Camden and Penn — for those who commute from Martinsburg, West Virginia, into parts of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, the District and Baltimore area.

Currently, MARC train users traveling beyond Union Station in Northwest must transfer either by Metro, bus, cab, or ride-sharing service.

Besides commuters driving on the Beltway, Montgomery County Council member Hans Reimer said most travelers mostly think of Metro and Amtrak as the only forms of rail transportation.

“It’s a very underutilized transportation asset,” he said of MARC. “When you can ride into the Amazon H2Q [in Northern Virginia], that’s the game-changer for Maryland. This is a true statewide venture.”

Several people testified in support of the legislation Thursday before the House Environment and Transportation Committee, with a few of them pointing out that neighboring Virginia invests more in transportation and the state’s employment opportunities such as Amazon H2Q and the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.

“This is immense connectivity that we need to not only grow our local economy in Prince George’s County, but in Maryland as a whole,” said Prince George’s County Council member Dannielle Glaros (D-District 3) of Riverdale Park. “This state is falling behind Virginia. If we don’t catch up soon, we are going to lose the economic competitiveness.”

Herb Harris Jr., a representative of Brotherhood of Local Engineers and Trainmen union, said MARC expansion would allow Maryland to join Virginia in providing additional transportation options. Harris said about 70 percent of Virginia’s population can access inner-city passenger and commuter rail service.

“The potential to offer Marylanders a one-seat ride to the employment centers in the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia will significantly expand job and other educational opportunities for Marylanders,” he said. “Unfortunately, Maryland is lagging behind the comparable investments that have been made in Virginia.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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