The Maryland Transit Administration will hold a hearing in September on possible drastic cutbacks in MARC train service into West Virginia following a dispute between the two states over funding for the commuter rail system.
The proposed move would eliminate four of the six trains that serve the Martinsburg, Duffield and Harpers Ferry stations each day. The change would go into effect Nov. 4.
The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 7 at the Charles Town Library, 200 E. Washington St., Charles Town, West Virginia.
A full text of the proposed service changes is available to the public in the lobby of the William Donald Schaefer Building at 6 St. Paul St. in Baltimore.
MTA spokeswoman Brittany Marshall did not address specific questions from The News-Post about whether negotiations between the two states on a new agreement are continuing.
But Marshall did say in a statement outlining discussion points that have already occurred about the service, including retention of service, which would require an allocation of about $3.5 million from West Virginia, and a less frequent level of service, at $1.1 million.
“For Fiscal Year 2020, the West Virginia Legislature chose to appropriate $1.1 million to support MARC train service, which will provide two MARC Train trains per day on the Brunswick line into West Virginia,” she said in the statement.
If the plan is adopted, the system’s 874, 878, 879 and 881 lines would begin or end at Brunswick, while the 872 and 875 trains would continue to serve the West Virginia stops.
MARC’s Brunswick Line runs between West Virginia and Union Station in Washington, D.C., serving stations in Brunswick and Point of Rocks as well as Montgomery County. A separate branch of the line serves two stations in Frederick.
MARC also has two other lines, the Camden and Penn lines, which serve communities in the Baltimore area.
A memorandum of understanding between the two states covering fiscal 2019 expired June 30, although discussions continued into July.
Cuts in service into West Virginia could have detrimental effects on the Brunswick and Point of Rocks stations, as well as traffic on Interstate 270, if West Virginia passengers decide to drive to those stations to catch the train, or simply drive to their jobs in Montgomery County and Washington.
The city of Brunswick hasn’t had discussions with MTA about the issue recently, City Administrator Dave Dunn said Wednesday.
The parking lot at the Brunswick station is already crowded, he said.
West Virginia ridership averages about 250 passengers per day in both the mornings and the evenings.
Passengers from West Virginia pay a surcharge to help offset the cost of running trains into the state’s Eastern Panhandle, paying $2 on a one-way ticket, $20 on a weekly ticket, and $80 on a monthly ticket.
The fare from Martinsburg is $13, and $12 from Duffields and Harpers Ferry.
There’s been resistance in the West Virginia Legislature to fund the system, with some lawmakers reluctant to fund a system that serves only a small part of the state, West Virginia state Sen. John Unger said during the negotiations in June.
Unger’s district covers parts of Jefferson and Berkeley counties, including areas around Martinsburg and Shepherdstown.