There’s a plan for more rail options in Baltimore, and it doesn’t involve the Red Line

The Red Line might not be happening, but that doesn’t mean Baltimore’s transportation needs have gone anywhere. A plan from 2007 recommends new stations on the MARC’s Penn Line and make it easier to travel to and from Baltimore as well as within the city itself.

Baltimore's existing heavy rail lines, along with potential MARC stops and the now cancelled Red Line route. The 2007 Plan also discusses possibilities for expanding the Camden Line. Base image from Google Maps.

Baltimore’s existing heavy rail lines, along with potential MARC stops and the now cancelled Red Line route. The 2007 Plan also discusses possibilities for expanding the Camden Line. Base image from Google Maps.

Assembled by the Maryland Transit Administration, the 2007 MARC Growth & Investment Plan featured a number of rail projects, many of which would invest heavily in Baltimore. Adding more MARC stations to Baltimore would also amount to intracity service, removing some of the sting of losing the Red Line investment.

2013 draft update omits stations and improvements planned for the city. There isn’t an explanation for why.

Moving forward with the Penn Line stations identified in the 2007 plan would provide many more places to access or depart Baltimore on the MARC regional rail line. (The 2007 plan also calls for major Camden Line investments, but they are less shovel ready)

The plan includes three new stations on the Penn Line, which runs from DC Washington’s Union to Station to Perryville, Maryland, near the Delaware border.

1.The first is Bayview, near the Baltimore City/County line. Bayview would be a strong choice for a transportation investment because has easy access to Interstates 95 and 895 and park & ride opportunities, a major hospital, and dense neighborhoods nearby. Bayview is also easy drive from large suburbs in Baltimore County such as Essex and Middle River.

Bayview was meant to have a connection to the Red Line and has considerable station planning work was completed on the $60 million project. Of all the proposed new stations, this one is the most shovel ready.

2. The second is Madison Square, in the center of East Baltimore. The 2007 plan specifically calls for proposes a connection to the Metro Green Line and Johns Hopkins Hospital, which is one of the region’s largest job centers. A stop here would provide regional rail access to Northeast Baltimore, an area currently unconnected to any passenger rail network.

3.Finally, the plan proposes a station at Upton in West Baltimore, with a proposed connection to the Metro Green Line. This proposed stop is near the epicenter of the 2015 riots. Completing this connection would require making a station that links connection between the subway and the train tunnels that pass over each other.  Work on the B&P Tunnel is being planned now.

Riders leaving the MARC at Baltimore's Penn Stations. Would more stations on the Penn Line help transit in the city? Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Riders leaving the MARC at Baltimore’s Penn Stations. Would more stations on the Penn Line help transit in the city? Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

The MARC lines are regional in scope, but by adding stations in dense populated neighborhoods outside of downtown on both sides of the city, Baltimoreans would have more access to the line. Those coming into Baltimore, will also have much greater choice of places to get off that might be closer to their destinations.

More MARC stations in Baltimore could attract jobs

When it was still on the table, a lot of people called the Red Line the “jobs line” because it would have connected so many of Baltimore’s densest employment clusters, especially near the harbor and in Baltimore County. The MARC Penn Line runs about three miles north of the Red Line alignment, and while the proposed stations are in places with fewer jobs, they’re still close to large residential populations.

That means new Penn Line stations could very well attract new jobs in the future. Like the Red Line, the MARC lines cross from west to east (although the Red Line was to go much further west into Baltimore County). Adding stations on the Penn Line at Bayview and Madison Square in particular, appear to be feasible. With multiple new stations within Baltimore and more frequency, it could create “transit-like” service through Baltimore. If that were to happen, it would be an economic jolt for neighborhoods in the city’s interior.

As the state and city discuss transportation improvements for Baltimore, the 2007 MARC Investment Plan for Baltimore should be on the table. Adding MARC service and stations in Baltimore is not a substitute for the Red Line, but it would do a lot of good in different areas of the city.

A similar article has been posted at Greater Greater Washington

Jeff La Noue

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