A long-sought goal of transit advocates – MARC service between Baltimore and Washington on weekends – will become a reality on Saturday, December 7, courtesy of the state gas tax hike that took effect in July.
Beginning on that date, the Penn Line will offer nine round trips on Saturdays and six round trips on Sundays, supplementing Amtrak trains between the two cities.
A one-way MARC ticket costs $7 between Baltimore and Washington, while Amtrak charges between $16 and $32 each way on conventional trains and $42 on the Acela Express.
Other slated MARC improvements announced today by Gov. Martin O’Malley include $52 million to purchase 10 new diesel locomotives and to add two daily round trips to the weekday-only service on the MARC Camden Line.
There was no specific timeframe as to when these improvements will be made.
Enhanced MARC service is part of a six-year package of transportation programs launched by O’Malley after passage of a major transportation funding bill in the last legislature that raised gas taxes.
The first tax increase of 3.5 cents per gallon took effect July 1. By mid-2016, motorists can expect to pay as much as 20 cents more per gallon, according to a legislative analysis.
Red Line Funding
The governor announced $689 million in state funds for the Baltimore Red Line – far less than its current price tag of $2.6 billion.
The state is seeking $900 million in funding from the federal New Starts program, but those funds are contingent on a very competitive national program where matching state grants are considered vital for success.
The governor today said $170 million will go to right-of-way acquisition and final design for the 14-mile light-rail line, and $519 million for construction over the next six years.
To make up for the projected shortfall of state funds, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has projected some $250 million in unspecified “regional contributions,” which could include a future tax levied on Baltimore area residents and businesses.
Additionally, the state anticipates the federal share of the Red Line to be heavily front-loaded in the early years of construction rather than evenly spread out.
By far the most expense section of the planned route between Woodlawn and the Bayview Medical Center is the proposed three-mile, $1.2-billion tunnel through the Inner Harbor and Fells Point.
The governor did not address today plans pushed by some southeast Baltimore citizens and state Senator William C. “Bill” Ferguson (46th District) for a surface line to replace the tunneled portion of the route, with supplemental streetcar routes.
The MTA says that it hopes to build the entire line between 2015 and 2022 as a single project. But it adds on its website, “If funding is not sufficient to accomplish this, it would be possible to build the Red Line in phases starting with the downtown section and then completing the surface sections over time.”
Other Transit Funding
Also announced today was $246 million to replace the Baltimore Metro’s aging subway car fleet and 15 miles of now-obsolete signaling.
Two projects are earmarked for the city’s bus system. A new $75 million Kirk Avenue bus servicing and storage facility is planned to replace a 65-year-old MTA building in northeast Baltimore.
And in a welcomed handout to the Rawlings-Blake administration, the governor announced $12 million in “operating assistance” for the Charm City Circulator.
$175 Million for Beltway
Some $175 million will also be allocated under the state’s Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act to improve the Baltimore Beltway.
Replacing two bridges and improving the traffic flow at Leeds Avenue will cost $60 million. An additional $29 million is slate to improve safety at the Harford Road interchange and a whopping $86 million to widen the Outer Loop between U.S. 40 and Frederick Road in Catonsville.
Other area road improvements announced by the governor were:
• $48 million to widen U.S. 29 northbound in Howard County.
• $43 million to improve intersections along access routes to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County.
• $29 million to reconstruct the Routes 175/295 interchange near Ft. Meade in Anne Arundel County.
• $20 million for streetscape improvements to Route 30 Business in Hampstead in Carroll County.
• $8 million to build a sound wall along I-95 near Lawyers Hill in Howard County.
• $7 million in streetscape improvements to Route 755 in Edgewood in Harford County.
• $3 million to widen Route 140 at Painters Mill Road in Baltimore County.
• $2 million in planning to examine adding a fourth lane on eastbound U.S. 50 over the Severn River Bridge from Rowe Boulevard to Route 2 in Anne Arundel County.