Light rail expansion idea killed Trains would have run through Glen Burnie historic neighborhood

Area to be spared for now

Glendening calls for double tracks between Cromwell, Hunt Valley

October 07, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

A 90-year-old Glen Burnie neighborhood that had been facing a death threat has been spared.

Word came from the office of Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday that a long-feared expansion of light rail into the old-fashioned, oak-tree-lined Georgia Avenue neighborhood is no longer under consideration.

Instead of spending millions of dollars on a southward expansion of the rail line from Cromwell Station in Anne Arundel County to Glen Burnie's planned town center, Glendening said, he would rather see more tracks added to existing light-rail lines between Cromwell and Hunt Valley in Baltimore County.

Georgia Avenue residents, who had appealed directly to Glendening to save their homes and businesses, were ecstatic to receive letters from his office this week about the unexpected change in plans.

"Of course, we're thrilled," said Audrey Dietz, 80, who grew up on Georgia Avenue and lives in a house her father built. "The whole neighborhood would have been disrupted by the noise and such," she said.

Fourteen houses would have been demolished, and the community would have been bisected by tracks.

The Georgia Avenue route was one of two the state was considering in May when Glendening visited Georgia Avenue at the residents' invitation. He had rejected a proposal to build tracks over the B&A Trail Park. The other idea was to build a longer and more expensive route along Eighth Avenue. Glendening told the residents that he would not decide until after his re-election bid in November.

Yesterday he said, "I saw firsthand that the project would take an unacceptable toll on the community."

Money from the federal government played a part in that change in heart.

Days before, Glendening had announced a state award of $1.6 million to pay for planning and design of a second set of tracks along 9.5 miles of light rail. The U.S. Department of Transportation has set aside $120 million for Maryland over the next six years to pay for the tracks.

"Before we consider making any additions to light rail, we have to correct the fundamental single-track problem we have with the system," Glendening said in a written statement. "By double-tracking the light rail line, we will be able to provide more frequent service and allow the system to operate at maximum efficiency."

Adding tracks to existing lines will do more to increase the number of riders than adding another stop would, transportation officials said yesterday.

Trains can run more often on two tracks than on one. Trains would come every eight to 10 minutes instead of every 17 minutes as they do now, said Anthony Brown, Mass Transit Administration spokesman. And if there was a breakdown, operators could keep trains running by routing them around trains stopped on the other set of tracks.

There are two tracks along 18.5 miles of the 29 miles of light rail between Cromwell Station and Hunt Valley. With the proposed construction, all but one mile would be double-tracked.

Georgia Avenue residents and others in Glen Burnie, backed by state and county elected officials, had fiercely opposed the extension of light rail through their neighborhood. During the governor's May tour, more than 100 residents turned out in a downpour.

Even a Glen Burnie businessman who supported the extension as a way to bring customers to the area could not ignore the overwhelming opposition to the proposal.

"I would love to see the southern terminus extended," said William F. Jones, co-owner of Big Red-Sam's Bagels on Ritchie Highway and of a building at B&A Boulevard and Ritchie Highway. "But absent [community] support, I don't see it being it done."

The governor has agreed, but his announcement does not mean Glen Burnie will never get light rail.

"In the future years, should demand merit and there is support, we haven't abandoned the idea" of expansion, said David L. Winstead, state secretary of transportation.

Pub Date: 10/07/98

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