MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — In the final hours of the regular session of the West Virginia legislature, funding for a commuter rail line in the Eastern Panhandle received a boost.
Del. Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson, 66) said on MetroNews affiliate WEPM’s ‘Panhandle Live’ Tuesday that $1.1 million have been secured for the MARC Brunswick line through the general revenue budget. The service runs weekdays through Berkeley and Jefferson before ending at Union Station in Washington, DC.
Last year, the state Legislature was able to secure $1.5 million to keep the service running temporarily.
“Of course we were able to provide some funding last year as kind of a stopgap measure,” said Espinosa. “It’s certainly an increasing challenge to continue that subsidy. While it’s not all that the MTA (Maryland Transit Authority) had requested, it’s certainly my hope that it will be seen as a good faith gesture.”
The MTA wants West Virginia to provide $3.2 million to keep the train on the tracks through the Mountain State. West Virginia did not compensate Maryland for the MARC rail service between 2013-2017.
“I was a member of the steering committee that was looking at that issue. Obviously that MARC commuter rail service is very important to the Eastern Panhandle. Not only Berkeley County but Jefferson County as well.”
It is estimated that roughly 250 commuters take the MARC rail from the Eastern Panhandle into DC.
“I know the local municipalities and counties have indicated that they’re probably not likely to be able to contribute, at least financially, to any great extent,” added Espinosa. “Hopefully that will be enough to keep that service continuing because we do have a number of folks in the Eastern Panhandle that do rely on that service.”
While the Brunswick line will continue for now with the extra funding, concern remains that further issues could come up without a permanent revenue source.
Another option for Eastern Panhandle commuters will be available in 2020. DC Metro is extending their Silver Line past Dulles International Airport to Ashburn in Loudoun County, Virginia.
This would provide a direct rail connection to multiple stops in DC. When finished, Jefferson County residents will be able to access a Metro rail station within a 30 mile drive.