Train station leaves commuters in the rain

WATCHDOG

November 28, 2006

THE PROBLEM -- The southbound train platform at the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Amtrak/MARC station is under renovation. Although the platform is well-lit, some people waiting for trains have no overhead shelter from rain and the coming snow, unless they duck back into the stairwell and rush out when the train arrives.

THE BACK STORY --Travelers waiting for southbound trains can only look longingly at the rusted roof overhang that northbound passengers get to stand under. Such shelter would have come in handy during the windy rainstorm that pelted the area over the Thanksgiving holiday. "They should have a shelter, especially in the winter and on rainy days. It's safer and more comfortable," said Michael Briese, 50, who was on his way back to his home in Silver Spring from a business trip to Boston.

Barbara Dee, 70, of Salem, Mass., was headed to see family in the Washington area and agreed that shelter is needed. "If not all, part of it should be protected," she said. She'd be afraid to wait in the stairwell, she said, because, burdened with heavy suitcases, she feared she might miss her train.

Cliff Black, a spokesman for Amtrak, said their wishes will be realized, though it will take some time. "I think passengers will find there will be some shelter for them." Black said plans are to complete the work on the southbound platform sometime in 2007, and that will include a roof over part of the platform, plus smaller shelters on areas the roof doesn't cover.

Black said that work goes slowly because the tracks cannot be shut down. "We can't stop running trains and engage in a major construction project," he said. Eventually, as funds become available, the northbound platform will be rebuilt, too, with identical facilities. That project is in the design stage now, Black said.

WHO CAN FIX IT -- Black refused to identify the project manager or the person's phone number. He said people can call 800-USA-RAIL for inquires.

Larry Carson

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