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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A MARC solution for Fort Meade

I worked on Fort Meade for the better part of a decade. It made me hate commuting more than any Beltway traffic ever did. It is virtually impossible to get there without a car, and the parking is years of expansion beyond critical mass. The disastrous runoff and increasing traffic are wreaking havoc on the Patuxent River estuaries, and it is only going to get worse as Fort Meade receives almost 6,000 new BRAC jobs.

I have in the past called for Metro service to the base to service the 50,000 military, DoD, and contractors that work on the base and the adjacent facilities. And though that sure would be a nice connection, I am finally coming around to the reality that it would be more infrastructure investment that it would ever worth. The fact remains, however, that the base and surrounding facilities are not served by the MARC lines that run by either side of it. What more an obvious solution than to put a connection between the two of them?

View MARC Meade Line in a larger map

The idea would be to have trains leave Union Station and follow the Camden Line to Savage, where half of the trains would continue along the current Camden Line, and half of them would continue along a spur going eastward along MD 32.  The spur would connect to the Penn Line at Odenton and continue to Baltimore and beyond. Stops along the way could include National Business Park, NSA, and the Fort Meade main gate. New tracks would be about six and a half miles long. Portions could easily be constructed along defunct railroad rights-of-way.

The Camden Line, which runs along Route 1 all the way from DC to Baltimore, has several sites such as : Laurel, Muirkirk, and Riverdale Park are struggling to implement transit oriented development by their respective MARC stations. The Camden Line, however, has by far the lowest level of service on the system, and that will still be the case when MARC's 2035 plan is complete. a Meade connection could be used to add more service to the southern half of the Camden Line, which could help encourage those TOD projects.

Best of all, this connection would bring a viable transit alternative to a growing facility with worsening traffic and catastrophic parking problems. It would bring regular, high capacity transit at a minimal infrastructure investment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even more cheaply on such a short segment, run a single train on a single track, shuttling between stops on the Penn and Camden lines via NSA, Fort Meade & NBP. It wouldn't do nearly as much for TOD along the Camden line, but it could probably be done for much less, and later be expanded to be more like what you suggest.