Future of MARC rail service for eastern panhandle still in doubt

West Virginia

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. (WDVM) — The West Virginia legislature adjourned this month without funding the MARC commuter rail service. And that leaves the fate of the line in limbo.

So just how much longer will eastern panhandle commuters hear the “all aboard” call to the nation’s capital?

The MARC rail is a staple of life in the eastern panhandle, but with so many people working from home during the pandemic, ridership has plummeted.

Michael Siford services the Caperton train station in Martinsburg. He said, “They still depend on the train. It’s not really as often but people still come and get on and off the train.”

It seems as though not enough passengers. The West Virginia legislature has totally pulled the plug on funding.

Even Berkeley County Senate President Craig Blair said, “No riders? No money!”

Okay then, says Delegate John Doyle from Jefferson County, you’ll see what happens.

“It would be economically devastating,” said Doyle, “particularly for Jefferson County and the City of Martinsburg. As soon as Covid is over the ridership’s coming back.”

Doyle pointed out that Amazon is building its new headquarters in the northern Virginia suburbs just outside of Washington D.C. That can be a big payoff for West Virginia’s eastern panhandle.

“That’s an additional 27,000 people who will be making a minimum of well over $100,00 a year and some of them are going to want to move here if they have train service,” Doyle explained.

Some lawmakers were so desperate to fund the commuter rail system that they considered raiding the Medicaid fund. But that idea never left the station. The MARC line has also been touted as an important tool to attract tourism to the eastern panhandle of the Mountain State.

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