MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Eastern Panhandle lawmakers are hoping to find a funding fix for the MARC train service that makes three stops in the Berkeley and Jefferson counties.
State Transportation Secretary Tom Smith recently told the House Finance Committee the state of Maryland is asking for $3.2 million per year to keep trains running to the Martinsburg, Duffields and Harpers Ferry stations.
“We’re still hopeful there’s still some room to negotiate that lower,” but Smith said that was already down from the original request.
Del. Jason Barrett (D-MARTINSBURG, 61) sits on the House Finance Committe.. He said there was an agreement with Maryland for train service several years ago, but said it was not maintained.
“Gov. Tomblin line item vetoed the amount of money we were supposed to appropriate to Maryland every year,” he told MetroNews affiliate WEPM. “It was nowhere near that $3.2 million annually.”
Barrett said it was closer to $300,000 per year, an amount he feels they can get closer to with more negotiation.
“We have some data that indicates it that it really shouldn’t cost that much ($3.2 million).”
Right now West Virginia owes Maryland about $1.8 million in back pay.
Barrett said that will need to be settled before a new deal is struck.
When speaking to lawmakers, Smith emphasized the importance of maintaining the service, although he acknowledged only 300 to 500 people utilize the trains.
“From a transportation point of view commuter rail really adds to the vibrancy there. That is certainly true in the Eastern Panhandle.”
He said that at $3.2 million a year raising the money would be a challenge.
Barrett said it is unlikely that the state would be willing to pick up the tab/
“To ask the state to pay the entire $3.2 million, that’s going to be a heavy lift to get buy in from legislators all over the state.”
But Smith said there are four potential sources of money for the trains, including increasing fares; money from the state budget, using federal dollars and getting local dollars from counties and municipalities.
He said no one of those revenue streams can fix the problem by itself.
Barrett said he expects some combination.
“I think that we’re going to try and pull resources form all of those entities and try to make this work,” he said.
A key, according to Barrett, is getting that number down from $3.2 million.