The long-desired commuter rail service between Newark and Perryville, Maryland, is inching forward.
A new agreement between the Delaware Transit Corp. and the Maryland Transit Administration calls for studying the expansion of MARC train service 20 miles to Newark and hence into the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority system into Philadelphia and points beyond.
“The recently announced agreement by the MTA reflects DTC’s continuing commit to working with the MTA/MARC to close the commuter rail gap between Perryville and Newark,” said Bruce R. Demeter, the DTC;s chief of performance and innovation. “There are many questions to be answered before schedules or infrastructure improvements can be determined. DTC will work with MTA/MARC, Amtrak and SEPTA to answer those questions and determine the viability of MARC service to Newark.”
Maryland has also signed a similar agreement with the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority to expand MARC service to Alexandria, Virginia.
The various agencies will work with other organizations to help determine operational and infrastructure needs and explore “pilot service opportunities.”
Earlier this year, Maryland announced an plan with the federal government to replace the B&P Tunnel in Baltimore – the oldest in the Northeast Corridor – and save over seven hours of train delays every weekday.
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MARC runs a half-dozen trains each weekday between Perryville and Washington’s Union Station. SEPTA runs runs nine trains each weekday from Newark into Philadelphia and eight from Philadelphia into Newark.
A 2021 Maryland Department of Transportation document identifies a half-dozen challenges, including track capacity, number and condition of switches, size and condition of maintenance and storage facilities, seats and train sets available, sharing the track and union contracts.
Kevin Hornberger, who represents Cecil County in the Maryland General Assembly, told Delaware Business Times in 2020 that there are several important infrastructure issues. They include a limited track (two lines and no switch), buy-in from the tracks’ owner (the U.S. Department of Transportation) and its other users (including Amtrak) and where to store MARC cars at the end of the day.
In 2017, the Wilmington Area Planning Council studied the gap, the only one in the 460 miles in the Northeast Corridor between Spotsylvania, Virginia, and New London, Connecticut.
“WILMAPCO has not completed any additional work since that last ridership projection study,” said Dave Gula, the principal planner who wrote that study. “We continue to work with MTA/MARC and DelDOT/DTC to try to move forward with the MARC to SEPTA connection and the recent signing of the agreement is probably the first real step towards that goal.”
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