North County civic leaders are going to be taken for a ride tomorrow, one the business community hopes will translate into a push to extend the light rail line from Baltimore.
The North Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce has arranged a sneak preview of the new southern portion of the state's Central Light Rail line at noon tomorrow, starting at the North Linthicum station on Camp Meade Road.
About 75 business people and members of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association are expected to gather for a half-hour train ride toward Oriole Park at Camden Yards, an on-board lunch and a few words from O. James Lighthizer, state secretary of transportation.
"I think there's a real curiousity," said Griff Hall, president of the chamber. "We've all read and heard a lot about light rail, but this will give everyone a chance to ride it and see what they think, if they haven't done so. This gives us all a chance to have first-hand experience."
While the Mass Transit Administration (MTA) prepares to open the last six miles of the 22.5-mile line, south of Baltimore's Patapsco Avenue station to Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie, the chamber is looking years ahead, envisioning when a rail spur runs into downtown Glen Burnie.
The state has no plans or money budgeted for a Glen Burnie spur, but the chamber's Town Center Committee has pushed the idea for more
than a year as a step toward revitalizing Glen Burnie's business district.
Last summer, the committee asked the state to consider possible routes, and last week, the state completed its review -- merely a starting point for discussion, MTA officials cautioned. The report identified four possible station sites within a few blocks of Arundel Center North.
Committee members say the three-quarter-mile extension could be critical in wooing businesses and redeveloping the 5.6-acre Superblock. They hope tomorrow's train ride will help sway opponents, some of whom don't want light rail on or near their property or on the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail Park.
"Chamber members, county officials and business people can go on the train and see what it actually is," whether it is noisy, intrusive or a danger to people walking by, as some opponents believe, said Danny Boyd, a committee member.
Starting April 2, light rail trains will begin carrying passengers on the southern extension as far as Linthicum, for baseball-only service. Regular service on that portion of the line, with stops at Baltimore Highlands in Baltimore County, Nursery Road, North Linthicum and Linthicum, will begin later in April. Trains will start running to the Ferndale and Cromwell stations in mid-July.
"We see this as being a real benefit, a real plus for the area," Mr. Hall said. "All you see are more and more cars, more and more roads and more and more homes. We need an alternate form of transportation."