Saturday, November 22, 2008

West Virginia Counties Ponder Saving Train

$2,380 per passenger. Is it worth that much to keep a commuter train running?

That's a question legislators in Jefferson and Berkeley Counties, West Virginia, will likely consider in coming months. To help close a budget gap, Maryland's MARC commuter line wants to curtail the 7:15 p.m. train from Washington Union Station to Martinsburg, WV, west of Brunswick, MD. Once the train crosses the Potomac River and enters West Virginia there are a mere 42 passengers on board on a typical weeknight.

To keep the train running, two legislators from Jefferson County have proposed that each of the two counties in the state's Eastern Panhandle kick in $50,000 to help reduce MARC's $350,000 deficit on the line, according to the Journal-News newspaper. That $100,000 contribution would replace money that the state of West Virginia no longer provides.

If the 7:15 p.m. departure goes, two MARC trains would still serve West Virginia customers. But, Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Corliss fears it would be difficult to restore the service once it is gone because host railroad CSX needs the capacity for its freight trains. Given that the Eastern Panhandle is a growing home to Washington workers, keeping the train growing seems far-sighted.

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