MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Representatives of municipalities and county governments in the eastern panhandle are heading back to their full councils and commissions with a request for local funding to keep the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) train running in West Virginia.
Delegate Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley, said a Thursday night meeting with the local representatives and the governor’s office was productive. The state of Maryland wants West Virginia to pay $3.4 million to continue to run the MARC into Berkeley and Jefferson counties. There’s only been $1.1 allocated in the state budget. Barrett said the local area has been asked to come up with a minimum of $300,000.
“I think they are committed and optimistic that they can make it work,” Barrett said.
A governor’s office representative indicated the importance of local participation in the funding. Barrett said local officials know how important the MARC is and want to help. He said what the state is asking the local governments to do is rare.
“It’s kind of unprecedented from what I’ve seen dealing with public transportation across the country,” Barrett said.
The governor’s office is negotiating with Maryland. They hope to get the $3.4 million request lowered.
Barrett said there’s doesn’t appear to be much time to get the funding in place. He spoke with a Maryland transportation official earlier this week who indicated riders would soon receive letters detailing plans to reduce the current service to one train in West Virginia in 30 days.
Barrett said local budgets are tight. He hopes they can find the money.
“All of our local officials up here understand the importance of the MARC train and want to do their part to help preserve it. It’s just the matter can they come up with the funds to do that,” Barrett said. “We’re asking them, in the middle of their budget year, to come up with funds that they didn’t anticipate on having to spend.”
Barrett said earlier this week if the local governments are going to have to kick in money they need a guarantee from Maryland that the service is going to be around for at least five years.
Story by Jeff Jenkins