State Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, is calling a meeting of MARC commuters and the general public for 11 a.m. Saturday to discuss the West Virginia Statewide Rail Plan, but he especially wants to talk about Senate Bill 103.
To be held at the Charles Town Library, 200 E. Washington St., Snyder's meeting will be followed at 1 p.m. by a public outreach meeting conducted by the State Rail Authority to get input on the State Rail Plan.
Senate Bill 103 was passed by the state Legislature in April during its regular session. Snyder introduced the bill, although it was heavily amended by the state House of Delegates.
SB103 mandates the State Rail Authority to negotiate an operating agreement specifically with the Maryland Transit Authority for MARC's Brunswick commuter line, which operates several daily trains between Martinsburg and Union Station in Washington, D.C., with stops at Duffields and Harpers Ferry.
The bill also established the Commuter Rail Access Fund that would go toward paying the cost specifically of operating the MARC commuter rail service in West Virginia. Money would have to be allotted by state legislators for the CRAF.
Contacted by phone Friday, Snyder described his meeting as a preliminary meeting for the operating agreement.
"We do not have an interstate agreement yet," Snyder said. "Officials have not met yet, there have been no discussions, there's not even a draft agreement. I want commuters to talk about their ideas that they want in the agreement."
He also wants money for the CRAF to be included in the governor's executive budget that is introduced at the beginning of each legislative session so the funds already will be appropriated when the session begins.
"There are immediate problems like bus overcrowding that can be solved quickly, but I want commuters to think longterm," Snyder said.
At the top of his priority list is expanding the train yard in Martinsburg that MARC uses to store trains overnight.
Three trains that arrive in Martinsburg in the evening are parked overnight on sidings a little north of the North Queen Street underpass. In the morning, the three trains leave for Union Station, picking up passengers in Martinsburg, Duffields, Harpers Ferry and stops in Maryland.
"If we want more trains, the Martinsburg yard must be expanded," Snyder said. "They can't add any more trains until the yard is expanded. Extending the yard would be a real project, but it needs to be done. It's an immediate need and should be in the rail plan."
According to the West Virginia State Rail Plan Commuter Rail Feasibility Assessment that was released in March, the MARC Riders Advisory Council has suggested "establishing a new combined layover and station facility that could easily be expanded to support long trains and additional frequencies" near the Interstate 81 and W.Va. 9 interchange, which would be about two miles north of the existing train yard.
There is plenty of space for a larger train yard, for a large parking lot for passengers and possibly for a maintenance base, the Advisory Council's comments continue.
"MARC staff recently indicated that they are considering a new maintenance base for period maintenance and overhauls," according to the comments. "Since this project would bring jobs and spending to West Virginia, it could be viewed as an industrial development opportunity."
Also at the top of Snyder's priority list is improving and increasing parking at the three West Virginia stations.
"We might want to talk about a new station in the Harpers Ferry area and there's a proposal for a new station at the Northport development at Jefferson Orchards in Ranson to replace Duffields - these are the types of things we need to think about," Snyder said.