Community leaders and politicians said yesterday that getting federal money to bring light rail into downtown Glen Burnie is a good bet. The problem, they said, may be getting residents to agree on a route.
During a community meeting called to discuss the possibility of extending light rail into the downtown area, U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd, told about 25 community leaders and local and state politicians that he felt confident about securing the $10 million-plus needed to pay for it.
"I think this is the time for this type of thing," Mr. Cardin said. "I think we have a very good chance of getting this going."
But Mr. Cardin and Democratic state Sen. Michael J. Wagner of Ferndale, who also supports the extension, said repeatedly during the hour-long meeting that the community should not get bogged down in arguing about where the extension would go.
"If they can't find a way to go through Glen Burnie, they are going to go around Glen Burnie," Mr. Wagner said.
Right now, the state's light-rail system -- the first segment of which opened from Camden Yards in Baltimore to Timonium in early April -- is slated to come as far south as Dorsey Road, just west of Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.
But a group of community leaders formed a committee earlier this year to lobby for an additional "seven-tenths of a mile," so that light rail can serve the center of Glen Burnie as well.
At Monday's meeting, Mr. Cardin said getting the federal funding to help pay for most of the extension probably would not be a problem, since more than $2 billion is to be directed toward transportation projects in the state over a five-year period. Renewed federal emphasis on mass transit is freeing up money for such projects, he said.
The bigger problem may be in getting the greater Glen Burnie community to agree on where the tracks should run, since at least three possible routes are being discussed.
Mr. Wagner said the most logical route would be to follow the B&A Hiker-Biker Trail, a 65-foot-wide former railroad right of way that is now used for recreational purposes. The right-of way is wide enough to accommodate light rail, which would use up about 20 feet, and a walking and biking trail, Mr. Wagner said.
However, the Glen Burnie Improvement Association, reacting to pressure from residents, passed a resolution two months ago saying it would oppose use of the Hiker-Biker Trail for light rail.
"We said we support light rail into Glen Burnie," said GBIA President Muriel Carter. "We just don't support use of the Hiker-Biker Trail."
Two other possibilities include running the extension from Dorsey Road across Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, following that road to Ritchie Highway; or across Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard and looping north of the downtown area before connecting to Ritchie Highway.
The senator said he has heard of another potential route that could bypass Glen Burnie altogether by taking light rail from Dorsey Road to Route 3, then following that south to Route 100. The line could then follow Route 100 east to Ritchie Highway.
The Maryland Department of Transportation is now studying possible routes for cost of construction, environmental impact
and any potential problems that could hinder the project -- for instance, how difficult will it be to cross Dorsey Road? That report is due out in about two months, Mr. Wagner said.
"Any route is going to be controversial," said Mr. Cardin. "The important thing is to keep this thing moving."
Mr. Cardin said the community has to be ready to support light rail in once the report comes out or risk losing the opportunity to secure funding.
Mrs. Carter said the GBIA will meet again after the report comes out to discuss the proposed routes. Should the Hiker-Biker Trail be the only viable option, the organization might be forced to change its stance.
The group also briefly discussed the possibility of continuing light rail all the way to Annapolis and of extending northward the planned spur to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.