5 Arundel light rail stations reopened

$154 million project reaches halfway point

northern section next

December 07, 2004|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Transit Administration system reached the halfway point in the $153.7 million task of adding a second track to the Baltimore region's light rail system yesterday as it reopened five stops in Anne Arundel County.

The completion of track construction ends almost a year of headaches for riders who use the system's southernmost stations. But it also heralds a transfer of aggravation to the rail line's northern section, where 12 stations from Woodberry to Hunt Valley will close Jan. 3 for double-tracking work. The North Avenue station will be closed to northbound traffic.

The openings and closings are part of an overall program of improvements on the 12-year-old system, which runs from Hunt Valley to Glen Burnie and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

"The double-tracking accomplishes some important goals for us. It will eliminate unscheduled delays," said Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan. "The project also involves a computerized system that monitors and maintains the distance between the light rail cars."

Flanagan said computerization will make the system safer and the schedule of rail cars more predictable.

Reopened yesterday were the stations serving Linthicum, Ferndale, Cromwell/Glen Burnie and the BWI business district and airport. Six stations south of Camden Yards and north of Linthicum reopened in June. All stations south of Camden Yards were closed in February to let construction proceed.

According to the MTA, work on the section from North Avenue to Timonium should be completed by late summer. The section between Timonium and Hunt Valley is expected to be finished late next year.

Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said that by closing down entire sections of the line the MTA is able to cut five to six months off the total construction time.

Eugene Peterson, chairman of the Baltimore area's Transit Riders League, said he prefers that approach. "Certainly it's better than fits and starts - a little bit here and a little bit there," he said.

But Peterson said transportation officials need to "redouble their efforts" to get out the word on the closings for the next phase of the projects. When the southern stops were closed, many riders complained that they weren't informed.

Cahalan said the MTA has learned from the completed phase and is taking steps to improve communications about the northern closings.

When the project is complete, more than 90 percent of the 30-mile system will be double-tracked. The MTA said 2.6 miles will remain single-tracked because of narrow rights of way.

Flanagan said the MTA and Baltimore transportation officials are also making progress on computerizing traffic signals along Howard Street to give priority to light rail trains.

When that system is implemented in the stretch between Camden Yards and the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, it will cut five to 10 minutes off transit times, Flanagan said.

MTA spokesman Richard Scher said the city expects to wrap up the traffic light work by late 2006.

During the shutdown of the northern stretch of the line, the MTA will provide shuttle bus service at most of the closed stations. Others are served by existing MTA bus routes. Light rail tickets and passes will be accepted on the shuttle buses.

Transit officials will hold public meetings on the double-tracking project at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at Lutherville Elementary School, 1700 York Road, and at 5 p.m. Dec. 15 at Baltimore's Western High School, Falls Road and Cold Spring Lane.

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