MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A bill that would reimburse the state of Maryland for the MARC commuter rail service to the Eastern Panhandle is heading to the governor’s desk for his signature.
House Bill 4389 will transfer $1.5 million from the securities division in the state Auditor’s Office to the the West Virginia Commuter Rail Access Fund.
State Auditor J.B. McCuskey said he worked with Delegate Riley Moore, R-Jefferson, to make the money available once he heard MARC might be in jeopardy.
“I realize what an economic driver that region of our state is,” McCuskey said of the Eastern Panhandle. “And I realize that that train is one of the most important economic tools that our state has.”
Maryland approached West Virginia officials a few months ago about paying for the service after CSX increased rail rates in Maryland. The ticket prices have already been raised but that doesn’t cover the full cost of the service.
McCuskey said the money will not jeopardize any programs in his office.
“Through sound fiscal policy and finding of efficiencies, we were able to have extra money.”
McCuskey said the best part of having the money on hand is being able to use it when a big need arises.
Moore said Monday on MetroNews “Talkline” the $1.5 million is a stop-gap measure. He said he hopes the next year will be spent gathering local, state and federal support for what may be an annual subsidy. He said there already seems to be support among leaders in Eastern Panhandle counties.
“They’re willing to do that but we need more time to set all of this in motion. We have towns, municipalities and county commissions,” Moore said.
State Transportation Secretary Tom Smith also has some federal funds that can be used to promote the use of rail service, Moore said.
MARC stops at stations in Martinsburg, Duffields and Harpers Ferry. This is the first time West Virginia has paid Maryland anything for the service.
A funding stream previously put into the state budget in 2012 but was pulled out via line-item veto by then Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.