Montgomery planners want third track for MARC line

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Local,Maryland,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Montgomery County wants to expand MARC service with a third track added beside one of the commuter train's lines.

The county would like the Brunswick Line of the commuter train service to have a third track built from the Frederick County branch to the Metropolitan Grove station, according to new recommendations from planners. The extra track would help ease traffic on the busy CSX-owned line by letting trains move around slower traffic.

"MARC service cannot be significantly increased without reducing the conflicts with freight service on the CSX tracks," said the planners' report released earlier this month.

The recommendation is part of the county's broader transportation proposals that include an extensive bus rapid transit system. Expanding commuter rail service could help take people off crowded local roadways, according to Larry Cole, Montgomery County's master planner. And land along the existing tracks may be easier to acquire than space for more lanes on roadways, Cole said, because buildings typically back onto railroads.

The Brunswick Line, which runs from Martinsburg, W.Va., to Union Station, currently has a daily ridership of about 7,700 trips, but Maryland estimated the expansion could grow that to 26,000.

The state plan called for adding another track near Rockville by 2015, then extending it from Kensington to Point of Rocks by 2035.

A 2007 proposal that included adding weekend service and more rail cars was expected at that time to cost $190 million to build, plus additional operating costs.

That plan has remained untouched. But Maryland is currently updating the plans and Montgomery planners said they were told the state will be including the third track in its latest proposal, too.

It is not clear how the expansion would be funded. "I was assuming most of this would be a state-funded project," said Cole.

But last week, Maryland officials forecast that the state will soon run out of transportation money for anything but upkeep.

"We will be looking to utilize all available options, be it federal, state, private, etc. sources," said Maryland Transit Administration spokesman JoeSviatko.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kytja Weir

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner