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Hearing set on plan to cut Panhandle commuter train service

November 20, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Local officials on Thursday talked about what they can do avert a "crisis situation for commuters" that involves eliminating one of three MARC commuter trains that serves Harpers Ferry, Duffields and Martinsburg.

The elimination of MARC Train 883 is being considered by the Maryland Transit Administration to reduce funding shortfalls, but state Senator-elect Herb Snyder said Thursday that now is not the time to cut commuter train service in the Eastern Panhandle.

Train 883 is the latest of three trains that arrive in West Virginia in the evenings, and riders depend on the train in case they miss the two earlier trains, said Snyder, who appeared with state Del.-elect Tiffany Lawrence at the Jefferson County Commission meeting Thursday morning to address the problem.

Train 883 has an average of 42 riders daily, and demand for commuter train service is increasing in the Eastern Panhandle, Snyder said.

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The train is scheduled to be eliminated Jan. 13, and the Maryland Transit Administration has scheduled a public hearing for Monday at 6 p.m. at Martinsburg City Hall to get public input, Snyder said.

The cost of running Train 883 -- $350,000 per year -- appears to be the justification for cutting the service, Snyder said.

Snyder discussed with the county commission the possibility of local governments helping to fund the service, with Berkeley and Jefferson counties possibly pitching in about $50,000 each and the state of West Virginia giving about $100,000.

"It's back in local hands to push this," Snyder said.

Although Maryland has said the service costs $350,000, Snyder said he wonders if someone "loaded that up" and if Maryland possibly would consider a lesser amount of money to fund the service.

The commission talked about exploring funding options with other counties, although Commissioner Rusty Morgan said he did not support a county subsidy for the train service.

Maryland Transit Administration officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Paul A. Mattox Jr., West Virginia secretary of transportation, has mentioned the possibility of a bus service to transport passengers from the Brunswick commuter station to West Virginia, although Snyder said that could be problematic given the heavy evening traffic that the bus would have to travel through at night.

Mattox also mentioned commuters driving from West Virginia to Brunswick to pick up a train, although Mattox said parking at Brunswick would have to be expanded for that.




Public hearing



What: The Maryland Transit Administration is seeking public input on the reduction of commuter train service to the Eastern Panhandle.

When: Monday, 6 p.m.

Where: Martinsburg City Hall, West King Street, Martinsburg, W.Va.

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