The Maryland Department of Transportation – Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) on April 13 signed framework agreements with Delaware Transit Corp. and Virginia Passenger Rail Authority for the potential future expansion of MARC (Maryland Area Rail Commuter) Train service to Newark, Del., and Alexandria, Va.
The agreements outline the next steps to advance discussions and explore pilot service opportunities, according to the Office of Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, which made the announcement.
Creating seamless MARC Train service both north and south of Maryland “is a critical component to transforming MARC Train from a local, commuter rail to a regional rail provider,” the Office said.
To advance MARC service to Newark, the MTA and Delaware Transit Corp. are slated to engage with regional stakeholders and agencies to help determine operational and infrastructure needs. These efforts are designed to ultimately close the commuter rail gap in Cecil County and provide a seamless connection between MARC and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) system, according to the Governor’s Office.
To provide MARC run-through service enabling a direct, one-seat ride between Maryland and northern Virginia, the MTA will continue to coordinate with the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, Virginia Railway Express, Amtrak and host freight railroad CSX, the Office said. It noted that future service is dependent on completion of the Long Bridge project, which includes a new rail bridge spanning the Potomac River from the District of Columbia to Virginia, and other related fourth-track projects in the District and in northern Virginia. In the short term, the Office said, Maryland will coordinate with Virginia Railway Express on improvements to existing connections at Washington Union Station.
“We must take a regional approach to create a fully connected transportation network, and these agreements will help us deliver seamless transit service across state lines,” MTA Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld said. “Maryland is working to create a transit network that expands opportunities and options for all customers. Collaboration with our partners in Virginia and Delaware is critical in that mission.”
“This partnership on a framework agreement is an important first step forward for VPRA to further advance the commonwealth’s goal of reducing congestion on our roads and highways by providing more reliable, consistent and accessible passenger rail transportation options,” Virginia Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director DJ Stadtler said. “We look forward to continued coordination with the Maryland Transit Administration as we work to better connect people and communities across the region.”
The agreements’ signing follows the MTA’s recent memorandum of understanding and funding agreement with Amtrak to replace the 150-year-old B&P Tunnel in Baltimore with the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel. The project is expected to improve speed, capacity and reliability for MARC riders and will provide an updated West Baltimore MARC station that’s compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Additionally, the MDOT MTA earlier this month awarded Alstom a five-year O&M (operations and maintenance) contract with extensions for MARC that “builds on a long-standing collaboration in O&M dating back to 2012” and adds “digital innovations aiming at developing sustainable and smart mobility.”