MTA Eliminates Abandoned B&O Line Option for MARC Expansion

HAGERSTOWN, MD News (3/31/2023) – The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) recently released the Brunswick Line Study Technical Report, which contains valuable information about potential markets for increased ridership, corridor constraints, and projects for the Brunswick Line in Western Maryland. The report also considers Western Maryland MARC expansion alternatives and analyzes their feasibility and cost.

Recently it was announced that the controversial Alternative 4, which proposes using the abandoned B&O Hagerstown Line, is the least feasible option due to right-of-way concerns, property acquisition impacts, and high costs. The feedback that the MDOT MTA has received so far, including from a public meeting held on March 8, has not been supportive of this alternative. As a result, the Maryland Transit Administration has removed Alternative 4 from further consideration as a potential route option that would serve Hagerstown.

While this decision may be disappointing for some, it’s important to keep in mind that feasibility and cost are critical factors when considering any transportation project. By acknowledging these concerns and adjusting their plans accordingly, the MDOT MTA is demonstrating a commitment to making informed decisions that will benefit both commuters and taxpayers.

The report indicates that Alternative 2, which primarily uses the Winchester & Western Railroad (W&W) track, and Alternative 3, which primarily uses the Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) track, will continue to be studied. Both alternatives have their own advantages and challenges, and the MDOT MTA will need to carefully evaluate each option before making a final decision.

Alternative 2 has the potential to serve multiple communities, including Martinsburg and Winchester, and could provide a faster and more direct route to Washington, D.C. However, there are concerns about the condition of the W&W track and the potential costs of upgrading it to meet MARC standards.

Alternative 3 would utilize existing infrastructure on the NS track. This option would likely require less capital investment, but may face challenges related to scheduling and operational issues with other rail users on the line.

Regardless of which option is chosen, it’s clear that the MDOT MTA is committed to improving transportation options in Western Maryland and providing more reliable and convenient access to jobs and other opportunities.

The comment period for the Brunswick Line Study will run through April 20, providing interested parties with an opportunity to review the report and provide feedback. This is an important step in the process of making informed decisions that will benefit both commuters and taxpayers. It’s crucial that all stakeholders take advantage of this opportunity to ensure that their voices are heard and that the final decision reflects the needs and concerns of the community.

Local resident Jerry DeWolf provided the following statement to Radio Free Hub City:

As a resident of South Washington County, the news today of the decision by MTA to abandon the Brunswick expansion Western Maryland Option 4 using the old B&O/ Roxbury Line, is a major relief to myself, my family, and our neighbors.

I would like to take a moment and publicly thank Senator Paul Corderman for his leadership on this issue. For far too long there has been a great divide on the issue of providing commuter light rail coverage to more Western Maryland residents; vs protecting property rights of South County residents. Such expanded services could provide residents of Hagerstown and perhaps others down state, with more economic development options, and recreational and professional opportunities for the region. In contrast, after over 4 decades of abandonment, it is clear that not only very challenging property rights acquisitions exist for this project, but a number of other nearly insurmountable challenges exist also to include but not limited to; running through 18 acres of a State Correctional Facility, detrimental effects of added signals and traffic issues cris crossing multiple heavily traveled south county roads, and certainly not in the least potentially decimating property values along with environmental impact concerns.

While there are still options for MARC train expanded services covering the eastern Pan Handle of West Virginia, via the Brunswick line, it is clear to all that we can once and for all put to rest the issue of resurrecting the old B&O line, given the extraordinary cost of the project vs the potential gains. At an estimated cost of over $500million to provide service to fewer than 100 daily residents, it’s clear that not even the biggest tax and spend politicians could support this. This crucial decision allows for the MTA and our elected representatives to focus on the remaining options that provides the best balance for all.

Thank you again to Senator Paul Corderman, the entire Washington County Legislative Delegation, the MTA, and all who provided valuable feedback to help kill this option.

Jerry DeWolf

Overall, the Brunswick Line Study Technical Report represents a significant step forward in the effort to improve transportation options in Western Maryland. While there are still many challenges to be addressed, the MDOT MTA’s commitment to making informed decisions based on feasibility and cost is a positive sign that progress is being made. By continuing to gather feedback from stakeholders and carefully evaluating all options, the MDOT MTA can ensure that the final decision is one that benefits everyone in the community.

%d bloggers like this: