Md. mass transit urged at 9 sites to bar gridlock

September 18, 1990|By Doug Birch

An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun about the Maryland Commuter Assistance Study described nine corridors statewide where the study proposed construction of high-capacity transit lines. A 10th corridor, connecting Oxon Hill and Waldorf, also was recommended. A light-rail line there would serve about 29,500 daily riders and cost an estimated $400 million to build.

The Sun regrets the error.

To spare state motorists from nightmare commuting and gridlock hell, Maryland will need to build new light-rail lines or some other form of mass transit in at least nine locations over the next 20 years, according to a statewide transportation study released yesterday.

The 131-page Maryland Statewide Commuter Assistance Study, which was sent to leaders of the General Assembly last week, also recommends highway and traffic signal improvements, new high-occupancy vehicle lanes, additional park-and-ride lots, new express bus service and other measures to speed highway-borne traffic in 24 corridors statewide.


Secretary of Transportation Richard H. Trainor, in an interview, was asked how many of the study's new projects could be built without an increase in the state's 18.5-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax. "None of it," he replied.

Transportation Department officials said that to pay for the study's proposals and other critically needed projects, the state would need to raise an additional $3.6 billion for the state transportation trust fund over the next five years.

Without transit improvements, the commuting times for some Marylanders is expected to almost double: Rush-hour travelers from Waldorf to Washington, for example, could see their commuting time go from 75 minutes to 125 minutes within the next 20 years, the study found.

Mr. Trainor declined yesterday to say how much of a gas tax increase he wanted, but some legislators expect the Schaefer administration to seek about 10 cents extra per gallon.

William F. Zorzi Sr., spokesman for the Maryland chapter of the American Automobile Association, said yesterday an annual survey of its members showed that sentiment was running against any increase in the state gas tax by a 2-1 margin. "I think a lot of people are put off by the high gas prices" triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, he said.

He said a similar survey last year showed only a 54 percent to 46 percent edge against an additional tax.

While the 18-month-long commuter study was expected to push for new light-rail lines around the state, Stephen L. Reich, assistant director of the office of transportation planning, explained that light-rail systems were only one type of "high-capacity transit" considered at the nine locations where commuter demand is concentrated. Often compared to trolleys, such systems travel on surface streets along overhead electric lines.

The other alternatives, he said, included extension of the Washington Metrorail and Baltimore's Metro system or "busways" -- roadways built exclusively for buses.

BTC Among the mass transit proposals in the study were seven that would -- when combined with the line under construction through Baltimore -- just about complete the ambitious network first proposed for the Baltimore subway system in the 1960s. Plans for a six-legged system were later drastically scaled down as federal funding for mass transit was reduced.

The proposed new mass transit construction includes:

*A mass transit link from Shady Grove to Clarksburg in Montgomery County. A light-rail or busway link with the Shady Grove Washington Metrorail station, the study found, would carry 30,000 passengers daily. Light rail would cost $525 million and a busway about $375 million.

*A mass transit link from the Addison Road Metrorail station to Bowie in Prince George's County. The study does not say how much alternatives would cost or how many riders each would carry.

*A link between the Johns Hopkins Hospital Metro stop and the White Marsh town center in Baltimore County via 33rd Street. The system would carry an estimated 16,000 daily riders. Metro expansion would cost $300 million, while light rail would cost $230 million.

A much less expensive alternative, the study points out, is to build a line to 33rd Street and run express buses from there to White Marsh.

*A link between the future Shot Tower Metro station and Sparrows Point, which would carry an estimated 11,000 riders a day. The study found that a light-rail line would cost $500 million to build, much of that associated with tunneling the line from the Shot Tower station to Dundalk Avenue.

*Extension of Baltimore's light-rail line, designed to link Hunt Valley and Dorsey Road near Glen Burnie, to old Glen Burnie. The short addition would carry 1,500 riders a day and cost $10 million. The study examined but rejected the proposed extension of mass transit from Baltimore to Annapolis, calling for enhancement of current bus service and other measures.

*A line between the Lexington Market Metro stop and the Social Security complex in Baltimore County. A light-rail line would serve 16,000 riders a day and cost $475 million.

*A mass transit line between the Social Security line and the University of Baltimore at Baltimore County near Catonsville. A light-rail line would carry 15,000 riders a day and cost $275 million to construct.

*A mass transit line between downtown Towson and the Central Corridor light-rail line. A light-rail route via Towsontown Boulevard would serve 4,000 riders a day and cost $60 million, the study found. But because of expected opposition by homeowners, the study suggests that another route be studied: via Kenilworth Avenue and the Baltimore Beltway. The alternative would serve 1,500 people daily and cost an estimated $50 million.

*A mass transit line between Penn Station and the Shot Tower Metro station. A light-rail link would carry 2,500 riders at a cost of $50 million.

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