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MARC line upgrade in appropriations measure

October 03, 2000

MARC line upgrade in appropriations measure



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Eastern Panhandle officials were elated Tuesday to hear that improvements may be coming to the Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) line.

A House-Senate conference committee Tuesday approved more than $237 million for transportation initiatives in West Virginia, according to a press release from U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

Included in the money is $15 million for improvements to MARC. Improvements will be made to the signal system.

"Each day, hundreds of West Virginians ride the Maryland Rail Commuter Brunswick line to and from work," Byrd said. "But the trains are often delayed for long hours because of an inadequate track and signal system. If not corrected, I fear that a breakdown in that system could one day cause a significant accident," Byrd said.

"That is why I have added $15 million to the bill to install a new signal system to make track improvements, so as to eliminate the regular conflicts between passenger and freight trains which use the same track. I hope that this funding will help to put the MARC train back on track," he said.

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State Sen. Herb Snyder, R-Jefferson, lives within 1,000 feet of the main line and about a half mile from a major commuter stop in Shenandoah Junction.

"I think it's fabulous that Sen. Byrd has once again come through," Snyder said. "This is important, because safety on the railroads is just like safety on the highways."

"Public transportation is becoming a key issue in the Eastern Panhandle and in my district," he said. "Commuter traffic has really increased. Fifteen years ago, you'd see three people get on at Duffields (the nearby train stop.) Today, about 300 people get on. And commuter safety is really important."

D. Wayne Dunham, president to the Berkeley County Commission, also applauded the news.

"That would be great," Dunham said. "There's a lot of people that commute from this area. There's a lot of people living in the county now and much of the growth is from people who commute. This is great."

Martinsburg Mayor George Karos called it "great news, not just for the Panhandle but for everybody who uses the line. We've really noticed an increase in the number of passengers who get on in Martinsburg."

He believes it will help economically.

"It will be more attractive to move to the area," he said.

The bulk of the West Virginia transportation funding, about $125 million, would help finance a bypass around Parkersburg, W.Va. Money was also in the plan to continue development of West Virginia's remaining segments of the Appalachian Corridor Highway System.

The appropriation also includes $2.5 million for the Eastern West Virginia Airport at Martinsburg.

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