New Edgewood MARC station planned

November 11, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

The weathered trailer and small cinderblock building that have served as the Edgewood MARC train station since 1991 will be replaced by a $4.2 million facility.

At an open house last week at the Edgewood Community Center, state transit officials unveiled the proposed design, which features an automated ticket counter, a sheltered waiting area, restrooms and a landscaped path to the platform.

Before breaking ground sometime in 2009, MTA officials are seeking public input.

"The idea is to bring concepts to the public so they can look at what we have proposed," said Harry J. Romano II, Maryland Transit Administration project manager. "Nothing is set in stone. We want to address people's concerns."

About 50 visitors meandered through the display of architectural drawings and maps and many offered feedback, spoken and written.

"This looks really pretty on paper, but I wonder what the reality will be," said Sharon Favors of Abingdon, who rides the train daily to her job in New Carrollton.

Gloria House criticized the long, graded walkway that added about $1 million to the cost. A handicap van would be more economical and practical, given that the path was open to the elements, she said.

The waiting room is an open-air design, with only a roof for protection, she said.

"I would like an enclosed, `green' structure," House said. "The technology exists to do it. This design offers no protection from wind or rain. It is just a fancy enclosed bus stop."

MTA will take most of next year to complete plans and expects to start construction in 2009, officials said. Amtrak, which owns the rail lines, will review each phase of the plan.

"We could conceivably be open in 2010," Romano said.

Despite the current station's limited hours of operation and destinations, about 360 passengers take a train from Edgewood each day, the highest ridership of any station north of Baltimore, Romano said.

While most residents expressed enthusiasm about a new station, they said they would prefer more amenities. Mizella White suggested a staffed ticket counter, heightened security, a shorter walkway and a coffee shop.

"What they are doing is an improvement, but they shouldn't take staff away," said White, who rides the train to BWI Marshall Airport when she travels out of town.

Michael Jones, who often boards the train early and travels to meetings in Washington, D.C., also had concerns about safety. Security cameras will be installed, officials said.

"This is not exactly a terrific neighborhood," Jones said. "You want to minimize problems for people waiting here in the dark."

Howard Newby, who frequently rides the train to Washington, liked the well-lit and sheltered aspects of the waiting area. He hopes an improved station will lead to more trains, more varied and longer routes and weekend hours.

Favors, who catches the 5:05 a.m. train weekdays, said she could not help but compare the project with other stations along her route to work.

"I would like some of the things the Odenton station has, like a refreshment stand," she said. "With the taxes we pay and the ridership we have, I think they could work harder to increase the schedule, too."

The station is adjacent to Aberdeen Proving Ground, which is expanding to accommodate about 8,000 additional jobs as part of the nationwide military base expansion, known as BRAC.

"With BRAC, there will have to be more train stops and buses to get to the base," said County Council member Dion F. Guthrie, who added that the open house gave residents a good look at the plans. "I use the train, but I usually go out of Aberdeen because of times and destinations."

Plans call for enlarging the Edgewood facility's parking lot to about 285 spaces, with a design that will allow Harford Transit buses an easier turn-around, should they provide service from the station to APG.

"There will be more parking, but I am not sure there is enough to accommodate all the growth needs," Richard Kunig, a daily rider. "The trains are often crowded already."

State transit officials are considering extending MARC train routes as far north as Elkton, and buying more cars and engines. Its lines are operating at capacity with 30,000 boardings daily. Expansion would entail negotiations with Amtrak, owner of the rails. It also would mean buying more double-decker cars, which cost about $2 million each, more $8 million locomotives, and large rail storage lots for overnight train layovers.

"We take everything into account, especially if there is a real issue that we are not aware of," Romano said. "These comments will be incorporated into the concept planning and design."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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