Old questions accompany revived light rail proposal

January 22, 1995|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

The state Mass Transit Administration (MTA) again has raised the issue of extending light rail three-quarters of a mile into downtown Glen Burnie, and already old questions have been raised.

Where would it go? Who would it serve? What purpose does it have?

"There's no major retail draw here. What's the attraction? Why would anyone want to stop here?" said William Sarro, owner of Scuba Hut.

But others asked whether downtown Glen Burnie could afford to let light rail pass it by.

"Glen Burnie is going to die as a business center if [it is bypassed], as it almost once did when the highways bypassed it," said Gene Harvey, a member of the Northern Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce's Town Center Committee and the town's urban renewal board.

The MTA has outlined six possibilities for a routes to draw people to downtown Glen Burnie, in an effort to pump up the economy, reduce traffic congestion and preserve the long-term option of extending lightrail to Marley Station and Annapolis.

Two of the proposed routes would run north along Georgia Avenue; the others would run south along Greenway Avenue. The stops would end at walk-up stations either between Maryland and Delaware avenues, at the YMCA building near Platzer Lane or at the Glen Burnie Carnival Grounds, along Post 40 Road.

This is not the first time the MTA has talked about extending light rail into downtown Glen Burnie. That was in 1992, when the MTA conducted a feasibility study.

MTA officials will explain the six options at an informational meeting from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Pascal Senior Center, 125 Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie.

The MTA will schedule public hearings before it chooses one plan to submit for federal environmental impact review. The state expects to have a final proposal by spring 1996, Ken Goon, MTA's director of planning and projects, said.

He estimated that it could take at least five years to move from starting the study to finishing construction and that the project could cost between $15 million and $20 million, a price some say is too high.

"It just seems like a lot of money not to be sure what you're getting," said Muriel Carter, a Glen Burnie resident and past president of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association.

The association voted Jan. 10 not to support the project without more information about its potential effect on traffic, pedestrians, residents, the carnival grounds, hiker-biker trail and costs and benefits to the town.

One of the proposed alignments would come near the carnival grounds, a major source of revenue for the neighborhood association and the community programs it supports.

Four of the proposed alignments would dead-end at the parking lot of Floyd Co., a real-estate appraising business in the 7400 block of Ritchie Highway. Owner Gene Floyd worries about having to keep light rail riders from leaving their cars in his lot.

"If they think they're going to come in here and blip-in dead-end at my parking lot, they're crazy . . .," Mr. Floyd, a member of the Town Center Committee, said. "I'll fight them all the way on that one."

He and others say they are frustrated that MTA officials won't say whether they intend to run the line to Annapolis. The state TTC began a study this month of that possibility.

"If they aren't going to Annapolis, it doesn't make sense to come three-quarters of a mile further into Glen Burnie," Mr. Floyd said. "They already have a nice station down at Cromwell. The business people, it doesn't do us any good unless it's going down to Annapolis."

Others say the rail line wouldn't help in any case.

"This, as a retail district, is basically dead. We're specialty stores," said Mr. Sarro. "Scuba diving, the used bookstore, DiamonDogs. People seek us out."

The line would end near the old Superblock, 5.6 acres of gravel and concrete that Mr. Sarro's Delaware Avenue shop overlooks. The vacant lot was supposed to be the center of Glen Burnie urban renewal.

If the Superblock is not developed, "there is no need for light rail," said Chuck Parlato, owner of Arundel Computers and president of the Heart of Glen Burnie Merchants Association, which represents about 30 small businesses.

Business owners and residents say they want to keep the small-town feel of Glen Burnie. They talk about fears of crime increasing in the community if light rail comes through.

"I don't want that [crime] in downtown Glen Burnie," said Debbie Brunetti, who lives in Glen Burnie. "Leave us alone."

Republican State Sen. C. Edward Middlebrooks, who represents the area, said he will listen to constituents before taking a stance. But, he said, if he is reading their mood well, "people don't want [light rail] coming through Glen Burnie."

Neither does Mr. Middlebrooks, who is against running light rail down the hiker-biker trail and through a residential community.

He proposes running the line along the Interstate 97 corridor, arguing that it will take cooperation between the county and private businesses to help Glen Burnie.

"I doubt real seriously [light rail] will spur anything," he said.

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