Amid hoopla and hurrahs, a new commuter train connecting Cecil and Harford counties to Baltimore and Washington made its inaugural run yesterday and begins regular passenger service today.
"Anybody who sits in the White Marsh crunch [at rush hour] knows how important rail transportation is," said Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, hailing the arrival of the commuter service.
Yesterday's run from Baltimore to Perryville and back carried a trainload of politicians, among them Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mrs. Rehrmann, state transportation officials, Amtrak administrators and Japanese businessmen.
Only the everyday passengers were missing, but that is expected to change today.
Initially, the train service is expected to handle about 400 passengers a day Monday through Friday, said Helen L. Dale, a spokesman for the Mass Transit Administration. Officials hope that number grows after people get accustomed to the service.
The Maryland Rail Commuter train will originate in Perryville in Cecil County before continuing on to Aberdeen and Edgewood in Harford County, Martin State Airport in Baltimore County and Baltimore's Penn Station. From Penn Station, it makes seven more stops before pulling into Washington's Union Station.
Throughout yesterday's train ride, politicians expressed delight at the convenience the train would bring to their constituents and a hope that new businesses would see the train as incentive to move into the region.
"This will give job opportunities to people all over the area . . . down track, up track, wherever they may be," Governor Schaefer said.
Mrs. Rehrmann agreed.
"It opens up employment aspects for everybody in the region as well as for Harford County residents," she said. "I expect it to draw business into the region."
"It's going to be a big help to Cecil County," said Delegate Ethel A. Murray, D-Cecil.
At the Edgewood stop, the train was christened "the Susquehanna Flyer" by Jeane Tilley's third-grade class from Deerfield Elementary School.
The class was so honored because a contest was held to select a name, and Mrs. Tilley's brood won. The name, Mrs. Tilley said, was the result of a combined effort from her and the students.
Besides the honor of naming the train, the students will soon receive a ride on the Susquehanna Flyer, she said.
"They were extremely excited," Mrs. Tilley said. "They clapped and cheered. When they discovered they were going to have a train trip, they asked if it was going to be on a school day."
It has been about 30 years since there was train service to Martin State Airport, and Perryville has lacked service for about eight years.
The Maryland State Railroad Administration contracted with Nippon Sharyo Ltd. of Japan and the Sumitomo Corp. of America to design and deliver the 25 new passenger coaches at a cost of about $1 million each.