Picture this: After paying millions of dollars for a light rail system that slices through residential neighborhoods, you find that the line carries only a handful of commuters directly to their jobs. The rest have to take shuttle buses to their businesses.
That's exactlythe mental snapshot North County residents and business leaders wanted Mass Transit Administration officials to take home with them yesterday.
The MTA and the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration sponsored a public hearing on three proposed extensions for the state's $446 million Hunt Valley-to-Glen Burnie light rail line. The extension would connect the main line to Baltimore Washington International Airport.
In addition to not building or using shuttle buses, theMTA designs for the extension include:
* The $79.4 million route from Nursery Road to Baltimore Washington Parkway, a 5.8-mile stretchthat would run along Nursery Road and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, cross a bridge over the Baltimore Beltway, then run along West Nursery Road to the Airport Square business park, ending at an airport parking lot.
* The $27.3 million "direct connection north" route, a 2.3-mile stretch that would connect with the main line at Hammonds Ferry Road, travel through Linthicum, passing Andover High School, then run along Camp Meade Road to Old Stony Run Road and Elm Road to the airport.
* The $31.3 million "direct connection south" link, a 2.7-mile route that also runs through Linthicum neighborhoods. It would connect with the main line at Broadview Boulevard and cross Hammonds Ferry Road, where a gate would stop traffic for trains. Commuters would then continue along Camp Meade Road and Elm Road to the airport.
Several residents and business leaders who showed up at the BWI Marriott Hotel complained that the proposed extensions disrupted neighborhoods. The second and third options also bypass the business community, which needs it the most.
Not satisfied with the existing options, several groups even suggested their own alternative routes.
Nancy Van Winter, executive director of the Greater BWI Commuter Transportation Center, proposed a variation on all three options that would include direct service to the airport and the 35,000 employees whowork along the Nursery Road corridor. The spur also would bypass residential neighborhoods.
This alternative "places emphasis on ridership from the business community," Van Winter said.
Another plan, proposed by the Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association and the Linthicum Oaks Transportation Committee, favors modifying the Nursery Road-parkway route.
This alternative involves placing the tracks farther north, paralleling Nursery Road through a proposed industrial park near the Baltimore County line. The tracks would then head south, passing the Airport Square business community before ending at BWI.
Bill Mueller, who heads the light rail committee for Linthicum-Shipley, said his plan would bypass communities and serve the business community directly.
County officials got into the act by making a proposal of their own, a slight modification of the MTA's southern linkoption.
Their plan would provide for a future extension along West Nursery Road to a station at Winterson Road or International Drive.
Written comments on the MTA's plan will be accepted through July 26 at 300 W. Lexington St., Baltimore, 21201-3415. A final decision is expected by the end of August.