Crucial meeting on MARC funding set for Thursday

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A meeting of local and state leaders along with stakeholders impacted by the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) train running through Berkeley and Jefferson counties will be Thursday.

Del. Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley, helped organize the meeting that will discuss the funding wanted by the Maryland Transit Authority to continue the majority of rail services in the Mountain State. Barrett appeared on a recent episode of MetroNews ‘Talkline’ and said local officials have to be willing to pitch in with the state on this.

Jason Barrett

“We’ve been told by Craig Blair on multiple occasions that municipalities and local governments have to bring money to the table,” Barrett said.

“We have to respect his position as the Senate Finance Chairman. We’re going to work towards that and I am hoping that we can get buy-in from our local governments.”

The transit authority is requesting $3.4 million from West Virginia to not cut four of the six services that head into the Mountain State. Barrett said while some believe maybe what Maryland is asking is a little too much, they must protect the vital service. He suggests the two states form an interstate compact.

“If we’re going to go to these municipalities in the two counties and says you’re going to have to kick in some dollars to help fund the service that they have to have a guarantee that the service is going to be around long term. We have to have a five-year agreement with Maryland to be able to do that,” Barrett said.

Maryland has stood firm on the price of continuation, Barrett said, while West Virginia has attempted multiple negotiations.

Craig Blair

$1.5 million for MARC service was appropriated in the state legislature last year and this regular session appropriated $1.1 million for the 2019-20 budget year. Blair has said in the past that the maximum the state should allocate is $500,000.

Barrett made his case to why the services must be funded fully, even though the authority only counts a couple of hundred West Virginia riders.

“When you talk about 500 unique riders at six-figure annual salary, those folks are paying over $3 million for the state of West Virginia with state income tax,” Barrett said. “What I would say to the folks locally here is they are purchasing goods and services here in the eastern panhandle. You can’t buy your groceries if you ride the train in Maryland.”

“To folks around the state, I recognize they don’t use the train service here but there are a lot of things in other parts of the state that we fund that are good projects that people in the Eastern Panhandle don’t use either.”