Giannetti wants Green Line to go to BWI

Thursday, March 2, 2006

The large number of new federal jobs expected in coming years to the Fort Meade area should provide the impetus for an extension of the Washington Metro's Green Line to BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, Maryland legislators were told Friday.

If the line were extended to BWI it would result in a connection between the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore mass transit systems. Currently, Baltimore's light rail system goes to BWI, but the D.C. subway stops in Greenbelt, about 20 miles away.

Sen. John A. Giannetti, D-Prince George's and Anne Arundel, wants to remedy that. He is proposing a bill that would ask the state to spend $1 million in already budgeted funds to study the feasibility of extending the Green Line from Greenbelt to BWI.

Though passage of a bill to fund a study might seem unnecessary, Giannetti said, he hopes to create excitement around the idea.

“We need to pass this bill. . .and say that we as the General Assembly endorse the idea of taking that Green Line up to the BWI Airport,“ he said.

While the study wouldn't cost the state any extra money, building the extension itself could possibly cost more than $3 billion, depending upon where exactly the train would stop.

Giannetti said the relocation of people to the NSA and Fort Meade areas will bring 40,000 new residents and more than 6,000 new jobs to the military facility, so having mass transit stops in that area is “crucial.“

According to one proposed route, Giannetti said the 20-mile extension could include stops at the Konterra Town Center, Guilford⁄Columbia East, NSA⁄Ft. Meade, Odenton Town Center, Dorsey and a final stop at BWI.

At a Senate Finance Committee hearing, testimony was given both supporting and opposing the bill, though the idea that some type of connection between the two cities was needed was generally supported.

Edward Cohan, president of the Transit Riders Action Council of Metropolitan Baltimore, said he supported the bill, but that other alternatives should be considered.

“There are trade offs,“ he said. “The Green Line alternative is the one that probably has the greatest opportunity in terms of transfers to other systems; it would also probably cost the most. The light rail alternatives would probably be slowest and would probably cost the least.“

The Maryland Transit Administration already plans to conduct a study this summer using the funds Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich included in the budget for the 2007 fiscal year, said Director of Planning and Statewide Transit Simon Taylor.

While Committee Chairman Thomas M. Middleton, D-Charles, said the timing of bill may not be the best politically, he agreed that connecting the Washington metropolitan area with Baltimore was a good idea.

“I don't think there's any question that this project is important,“ he said.