Rail service for thousands of Washington area commuters is likely to be restored Monday by a federal judge's order halting a strike on Maryland Rail Commuter Service lines.
Commuters were forced onto congested highways or were stranded yesterday by the work stoppage that blocked service on two MARC lines.
A U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore issued an order at 10:20 a.m. yesterday halting the strike, which enabled MARC to plan on providing normal service Monday on lines carrying commuters through Maryland and West Virginia.
MARC carries about 7,600 riders a day over track owned by CSX Corp., the target of the brief strike by disgruntled electrical workers at its Cumberland, Md., diesel locomotive maintenance shop.
Hundreds of CSX employees in Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana refused to cross the picket lines until the court order was issued, said a spokesman for the Railway Labor Executives Association, an umbrella group of all railroad unions.
The court order came too late for such MARC riders as Margo Hyde of Laurel, who depends on public transportation to get to her job as a security guard in Washington.
"What can I do?" Hyde asked as she sat alone at 8:30 a.m. at MARC's deserted Laurel station.
Hyde said she had not heard news reports of the strike, and had walked from her apartment to the station. The only alternative, she said, was a $25 taxi ride to work. "I called my job to tell them I couldn't come in today," she said.
Despite the court order, MARC was unable to provide evening rush hour service yesterday because the trains had not been cleaned, fueled, filled with water or put into position, said spokesman Robert Shreeve.
MARC normally carries 2,500 riders each weekday on its Camden line, running from Baltimore to Washington's Union Station, with stops in Howard, Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. An additional 5,100 commuters a day ride MARC's Brunswick line, which runs between Martinsburg, W.Va., and Union Station, with stops in Frederick and Montgomery counties.
All trains on both lines were canceled yesterday. Camden Line riders were able to use their tickets on MARC's Penn Line, which runs from Baltimore's Pennsylvania Station to Union Station over Amtrak track. MARC added three trains to the Penn Line and said they were filled. Brunswick Line riders had to find other means of transportation.
"Most riders knew beforehand about the strike," said James J. Kunkel, a MARC ticket agent at the Laurel station. The few riders who showed up received directions to the Penn Line's Bowie station.
About 500 electrical workers in CSX's Cumberland shop walked off the job Thursday in protest of "unfair labor acts" by CSX, said Jim Burke, chairman of Local 870 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
The union objected to the layoff of 45 workers at the shop, Burke said. The group included 11 crane operators whose jobs were given to workers in other crafts, he said.
CSX said that the layoffs were driven by the retirement of 200 locomotives and contended in court that the strike was illegal.
U.S. District Court Judge John R. Hargrove issued a temporary restraining order barring the electrical workers from striking for 10 days. Within that time a date is expected to be set for a hearing to determine whether the union can strike.
Though MARC planned to resume service Monday, riders who want to be sure can call 1-800-325-RAIL.
Staff writer Veronica Jennings contributed to this report.