Glendening seeks light rail money for double tracks in capital budget

$30 million would help expansion along 9.4 miles

January 21, 1999|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore area's bottlenecked light rail system, hampered by long stretches of single track, is due to be unclogged under Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposed capital budget for next year.

The capital budget, submitted to the General Assembly yesterday, includes $30 million to help pay for building dual tracks along 9.4 miles of the 29-mile Central Light Rail system that runs from Hunt Valley to Glen Burnie.

The state funding is needed to match $120 million approved last year by Congress for double-tracking the light rail system.

State transportation planners designed the 7-year-old system with 12.4 miles of single track to save money. But the cost-saving has become a scheduling nightmare as ridership has grown to 26,000 daily. Trains going in opposite directions are forced to take turns on the single-track stretches.

Glendening pledged during last fall's election campaign to fix the system's most glaring problem -- in the process canceling state plans to build an extension through Glen Burnie.

"The governor delivers on his No. 1 transit priority for the Baltimore metropolitan region," said Jack Cahalan, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation. "This $150 million project will take care of the single-track problem."

Double-tracking the main line between the Warren Road station in Cockeysville and Cromwell station in Glen Burnie would reduce wait times between trains by eight to 10 minutes, Cahalan said.

The remaining three miles of single track are spurs or end-of-line stretches that do not significantly affect the scheduling, he said. Spurs provide service to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and to Penn Station.

If the legislature approves Glendening's funding request, construction could begin next year and be finished in five years, Cahalan said.

While some light rail projects have faced neighborhood opposition, Cahalan said state officials expect this one to be free of controversy. The double-tracking can be accomplished within the existing right of way, so no additional land is needed, he said.

In Annapolis

Highlights in Annapolis today:

Senate convenes at 11: 30 a.m., Senate chamber.

House of Delegates meets at 11: 40 a.m., House chamber.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening delivers State of the State speech at noon, House chamber.

Senate Budget and Taxation Committee briefing on electric utility deregulation. 2 p.m. Room 100, Senate office building.

Pub Date: 1/21/99

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