CHARLES TOWN – Sen. Herb Snyder calls the passage of a bill designed to preserve the Brunswick line of the MARC commuter train a welcome development, but much remains to be done.
“I am extremely pleased that, finally, after 30 years of that service, West Virginia has recognized our rail line,” Snyder said. “It has given me a new task. Getting the bill passed was only the first step.”
The bill requires the state to enter into an agreement with the Maryland Transit Authority, which operates the MARC train.
The original bill would have given CSX, which owns the rail beds MARC uses, a tax break in return for their agreement not to charge per-mile usage fees. An amendment designed by Sen. John Unger and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin substituted the subsidy with a direct payment from the state.
Unger said this will ensure that Maryland officials will not forget, years down the line, that West Virginia is contributing to the service.
Snyder said the bill, which he had introduced at several prior sessions, was passed at the perfect time.
He notes that Maryland recently passed a transportation bill that will raise gas taxes over the next four years – for a cumulative 20 cents by 2016 – and that these increases will go to pay, in part, for commuter rail services.
“The Maryland officials were watching SB 103,” said Snyder, who said he stayed in touch with officials throughout the session. “If, once again, this bill went nowhere, that would have been a very bad signal to send to Maryland.”
“We deal with Maryland a lot in transportation,” he said. “There is constant, ongoing dialogue between the states on highways.”
Snyder hopes that dialogue will now extend to a broader range of transportation systems.
“This is the only interstate commuter rail service that did not have a formal interstate agreement for the operation of that service,” Snyder said. “My job was to protect the commuter rail service that we have, and that is only our Brunswick Line.”