Come next summer, commuters using the MARC rail station in Odenton may not have to hike up and down stairs to get on the trains.
And people driving to the station off Morgan Road may actually be able to find a place to park.
And those who must use the tunnel to get from one side of the tracks to the other won't have to climb steps, either.
The state will spend $1 million to make the station handier for commuters, especially those with disabilities. The parking lot will be enlarged and paved, platforms will be raised even with the train doors and ramps and an elevator will be built for people using the tunnel.
Between 400 and 500 people use the station each day.
"We want to make it more accessible and to help load and unload passengers in a quicker fashion," said State Railroad Administrator Richard Keen. "It will be a big improvement, something we would like to do system-wide."
Keen said the project should go out to bid in February and construction could start in early spring. If all goes well, he said the project could be completed by the end of summer.
Phase one involves construction of the ramps and platform, which will cost about $500,000. The platforms will be raised about two feet, so people will be able to walk straight onto the trains.
For better access to the tunnel under the tracks, the state will build a ramp on the tunnel's east side and an elevator on the west side.
Keen said the west side entrance requires an elevator because it is too close to the Watts house, an historic landmark, for a ramp. "We don't want to do anything to infringe on the property," he said.
Keen said that although the federal Disability Act passed last year mandates such improvements be done within three years, the state had planned to do the work well before the bill became law. He said the improvements will bring the Odenton station up to par with those in New Carrollton and Bowie.
The other major improvement is the upgrading and expansion of the 70-car parking lot. The state plans on paving the gravel and crushed stone lot and adding enough room for 300 cars for $500,000.
Keen said the state has acquired four properties and is negotiating for a fifth for a total of nine acres. The initial lot expansion will pave the area from Morgan Road to the train station. It will not affect the house owned by sisters Edna Lucille Jones and Hazel Elizabeth Lowman, both in their 80s, who successfully fought the state's efforts a year ago to condemn and raze the family home.
Keen said the state eventually will build 500 more spaces, bringing the total to 800.
Pat Wellford, president of the Odenton Improvement Association, said she has asked Keen to be at their next meeting Feb. 20 for a construction update. She said she is concerned that the traffic associated with an 800-space parking lot will snarl Route 175.