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Neighborhoodsby By Fern Shen and Mark Reutter7:48 amOct 15, 20130

A tale of two train stations

Rusty stairs and “airborne” concrete steps greet passengers using MARC’s West Baltimore station.

Above: Rusty risers on the staircase down from the platform at the West Baltimore MARC station.

At the West Baltimore MARC train station, commuters descend from the train platform on stairs with several risers so rusted-out you can see daylight through them. The pedestrian steps on Franklin Street are so eroded by runoff that the concrete structure appears in danger of collapse.

The decrepitude is striking when juxtaposed with the recent announcement of the completion of a $1 million renovation – of just the bathrooms – at the other Baltimore station used by MARC’s Penn Line, Pennsylvania Station.

There, thanks to a joint project by MARC and Amtrak, the restrooms in the Beaux Arts building have been given a modern, somewhat suburban-style makeover, including new stalls and fixtures intended to make the facilities accessible to people with disabilities and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The women's bathroom at Baltimore's Penn Station, part of a $1 million restroom upgrade project. (Photo by Fern Shen)

The women’s bathroom at Penn Station was part of a $1 million restroom upgrade. The new entrance below. (Photos by Fern Shen and Mark Reutter)

penn station restroom

By contrast, the West Baltimore station located in one of the poorest parts of the city – which serves 850 passengers a day – is ill-kept and possibly unsafe.

It has never been ADA compliant, but it is safe, Paul Shepard, a spokesman for MARC, told us.

Plans “Developing”

Asked about the rusted-out staircase at the station, Shepard said, “We are developing plans to repair it by the end of the year.”

As for the condition of the station overall, the future is murkier. Shepard said the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) “is in the planning stages for a new station that will be completely ADA compliant.” He was not able to give a date for completion of the work because, as of now, there is no funding for it.

“A construction schedule hasn’t been set because only planning funding has been allocated,” he said. “However, it is planned to be done before the Red Line goes in.”

“It’s the next station to get improvements. It’s in the queue,” he added.

The ground beneath the concrete steps for MARC passengers at Franklin Street has been severly eroded. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

The ground beneath the steps for MARC passengers at Franklin Street has so eroded that air supports the middle of the slab. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Millions for Penn

The bathrooms at Penn Station on North Charles Street are just part of the latest spurt of upgrades underway at the century-old  station.

Over the next 18 months, $2.2 million will be going toward a new ADA-compliant Passenger Information Display system, expanded community programming on the plaza and “the launch of an exciting multi-media experience for visitors arriving by rail.”

The MTA is providing funding for this work through the Joint Benefits Program with Amtrak,  according to its news release with Amtrak.

Over the past three years, the state and Amtrak have spent over $8.5 million at Penn Station to restore historic concourse windows, new platform lighting and displays, a new electronic train status information board, HVAC upgrades, a new fire suppression system and refinished floors.

The rusted-out staircase  is used by more than 850 passengers. Twenty MARC trains stop there a day. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

The long metal staircase is used by 850 commuters a day. Twenty MARC trains stop there. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

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