Advertisement

Editorial: Planning for the train

June 30, 1998

Officials from Hancock and Fulton County, Pa., believe that extending the MARC train line deep into Western Maryland is a good idea, as do some local politicians, who see the potential for economic growth. But as elected officials eye the prospect of property-tax base growth, we urge them to look at potential costs as well.

The Maryland Commuter Rail Service train is already scheduled to extend service to Frederick by 2001. Now MARC is examining a request to extend another line to a point near Hancock. But while this proposal is stalled now by some Maryland politicians who feel the line would disproportionately benefit riders from nearby West Virginia, that hang-up is only temporary.

As traffic on Interstate 70 increases, there'll be pressure to widen the road or cut the number of cars using it. Transporting them by rail is by far the cheaper way to take drivers off the road, not to mention the benefits on the region's air quality. Quibbles about so-called subsidies for rail commuters ignore the subsidies granted to motorists now, a point citizens will grasp when they see estimates for widening I-70.

Advertisement

Now that we've established that the extension of commuter rail service is inevitable (although not necessary imminent), local officials need to look at the costs they'll incur when new residents move to the country as commuting becomes easier.

The first is schools. Even the most luxurious home is unlikely to cover the cost of educating a single student for a year. And then there are services, which citizens coming from metropolitan areas will ask for at levels matching what they left behind. And finally, there are local roads and utilities like water and sewer.

Despite these problems, the answer isn't to try to close the borders - as if that were possible. No, local officials must use new rail service as a plus to lure tourists and business, which should be glad for another way to expand the potential number of new employees. The comforting thing about all of this is that it won't happen immediately, and that there is still plenty of time - if officials use it wisely - to plan for the future.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|