CHARLES TOWN – Sen. Herb Snyder says he is working to find state money for MARC train funding after learning funds for the newly passed Commuter Rail Access Act were not included in the budget recommended by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for the upcoming year.
[cleeng_content id="817782850" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]But in a year with an extremely tight budget, with cuts hitting virtually all parts of state govern
ment, the commuting public should not get their hopes up, Snyder said. “The West Virginia Rail Authority got cut $165,000, so it’s clearly not in there,” he said. “I have to try to find half a million dollars, and I am trying to do that, but I don’t want to build hopes in anybody that that is easy or that it will happen.”
Snyder had hoped the state would agree to pay the Maryland Transit Authority about $500,000 each year to offset some of the financial losses it takes by running the MARC train service into the Eastern Panhandle. He says MARC guaranteed that a $2-per-trip fee for West Virginia riders – called by many commuters the “hillbilly tax” – would be dropped if the state could come up with funding.
He successfully lobbied for passage of the CRAA last session after what he says were years of trying in vain to get lawmakers from other parts of the state to prioritize funding for a service that benefits the Eastern Panhandle exclusively. The bill allowed West Virginia to enter into an interstate agreement with Maryland to ensure continued MARC service in return for the state underwriting some of the costs of operating the Brunswick Line, which runs from Washington D. C. to Martinsburg.
The message from MARC officials has been clear, Snyder said. “If you’re serious, bring funding. And they’ve been asking us for that for several years. This was the year to get that done.”
Snyder said he was upset that Tomblin did not include the funding, but he understands the difficult budget situation this year.
“I feel for the governor putting together the budget this year because it is extremely tight. They are cutting everything,” he said. “It’s not done, but this would have been much, much simpler if the governor had put it in the budget when it came to the Legislature.”
Snyder said he has been talking with the governor’s office, members of the Senate Finance Committee and delegates in the hopes of finding funding somewhere.
“It’s hard to add things, particularly this year, when so many agencies are being cut,” he said. “You are in a feeding frenzy here for agencies that are being cut.”
Snyder said the only positive in the situation is time.
“We don’t do the budget until the very end of the session, so hopefully in one or both houses we can get the money put in,” he said.
While there has been talk in the past that MTA might choose to end MARC service, Snyder said he does not think failure to obtain funding will mean the end of the Brunswick Line.
“They haven’t given us that ultimatum,” he said.