State plans to rip up parts of Howard St. for light-rail tracks

September 10, 1990|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Evening Sun Staff

The state Mass Transit Administration is scheduled to begin tearing up portions of Howard Street in the next few weeks to lay the tracks for the Central Light Rail Line.

The continuing construction is part of the 27.5-mile light-rail system that will open in the spring of 1992 and will run between Glen Burnie and Timonium, said Ronald J. Hartman, MTA general manager.

Hartman said construction is proceeding on schedule. The line is to run from Glen Burnie, through Linthicum and Brooklyn to Camden Station in downtown Baltimore, near the site of the new Camden Yards baseball stadium.

The line then is to go along Howard Street, where rail cars will move alongside automobile traffic. At a point near the state government complex downtown, the line will move alongside the Jones Falls Expressway on an old railroad right of way. At the city line, the light-rail system will follow old Conrail lines to Timonium.

Three spurs of the main system -- to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, to Pennsylvania Station and to Hunt Valley -- are planned to open after the main line is completed.

The MTA intends to build 23 stops along the line, but Hartman said others can be easily added. He explained that the stops are simply constructed and cost $250,000, a small amount compared with regular train or subway stops.

The stops consist of a 300-foot sidewalk, a shelter similar to a bus stop shelter and a ticket machine. Each station also will be equipped with a ramp to accommodate handicapped riders, said Hartman.

Hartman said that one of the stops in Timonium is being financed by a developer, the Merritt Development Corp., which wants the rail system to run by his property on Timonium Road.

Earlier estimates of the rail line's cost, $316 million, apparently were inaccurate. Nearly a year ago, state officials acknowledged that they had seriously underestimated the price tag.

The cost is up to $446 million, said Hartman, with the state paying for most of the line. The city and Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties each will chip in $15 million.

Hartman said the state expects the federal government to come through with $60 million to help finance construction of the three spurs.

Residents who live in the Lake Roland area in north Baltimore have sued the state, claiming that Maryland manipulated its plans for the project in an illegal attempt to avoid federal environmental requirements.

The residents lost their case in U.S. District Court in Washington last December. An appeal will be heard Sept. 24 before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

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