On Thursday, the Maryland Department of Transportation reassured the city in Prince George’s County that their stop is safe. An agreement with CSX preserves the old Laurel train stop and delivers a new one that will serve the new development just across the city line, the agency said.
The Laurel station will maintain current levels of service and the new Laurel Park MARC station will have limited service with three morning trips to Union Station and three evening trips northbound to Baltimore, MDOT said. Details on the implementation of service and specific plans for the Laurel Park station have yet to be finalized, the agency said. A new stop, however, is not likely to be built for years because construction at the racetrack site is still in its early phase.
“It has been a rugged terrain that we had to cross,” said Edward Ricks, a member of the Laurel City Council, who lead the city’s “Save our stop” campaign.
The plan to allow the two stations to operate, he said, is good news for Laurel and the Route 1 corridor neighborhoods where development has grown in recent years. Laurel commuters fought to keep their station open, calling the old train station an anchor for the city’s Main Street businesses and a transit hub for commuters headed to and from jobs in Washington and Baltimore.
An average of 700 people board the train each day at the Laurel station served by MARC’s Camden Line, which carries passengers between Baltimore and Washington. Trains have provided passenger service there for 180 years, city officials say. Meanwhile, the Laurel Park site is already home to a flag stop — a station where the train stops only when flagged by riders.
Maryland officials came on board with a dual station plan a year ago, but the state needed the railroad to agree to it. CSX, which owns the tracks, had expressed concern about the impact of adding the Howard stop to rail operations in the corridor.
Ultimately, officials said they came up with a plan that maintains the efficient flow of freight traffic across Maryland. To add the stops at the new station, MARC will need to eliminate a morning flag stop at the St. Denis Station in the Baltimore area and two flag stops at the Jessup station, officials said.
As the area continues to grow, officials say, the MARC stations will become even more crucial.
“More people are going to want to take public transportation into the District of Columbia. If not they are going to driver their cars in,” Ricks said. “It is extremely important that we find ways to increase the amount of availability of public transportation going downtown.”