CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State transportation officials and lawmakers plan to meet with leaders in the Eastern Panhandle Thursday to discuss a funding fix for the MARC train service that makes three stops in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.
The state of Maryland is asking West Virginia for $3.2 million per year to keep trains running to the Martinsburg, Duffields and Harpers Ferry stations.
State Transportation Secretary Tom Smith said they don’t want to lose this service.
“We recognize how incredibly important this rail service is to the state of West Virginia. That’s the reason why we’re putting the full-court press on this to try to see what can we do to handle this shortfall,” he said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Smith said right now West Virginia does not pay Maryland any money for the service, but because Maryland is facing budget problems, the state needs the additional funding.
He 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.
West Virginia is considering fair increases of $2 or $4 to help generate funding, Smith said.
The $4 increase would generate about $600,000 per year. The $2 increase would generate nearly $300,000.
The West Virginia Legislature previously said it would set aside $500,000 for MARC, but Smith said altogether, it’s not enough to reach the $3.2 million.
“The $600,000 with the fair increase plus the $500,000 gets you to $1.1 million. We’re still $2.1 million away. The only other ways I know to fund that would be if the federal government has dollars that could be used for this,” he said.
Residents in Berkeley and Jefferson counties may have to be a part of the solution. Smith said they plan to talk to local officials about some sort of proposed levy or sales tax.
“I think it’s important for the locals there to understand that they have to respond to this and they have to respond in a significant way. There’s not much time left,” he said.
Smith said Maryland officials expect there to be a funding solution by the end of this year’s Regular Legislative Session, which ends March 10.