Light Rail to Southern Maryland? This ‘choo-choo train will be rolling soon’

Southern Maryland is no longer the sleepy, sparsely populated region it used to be, and that’s why local, state and federal lawmakers gathered in La Plata to tout millions of dollars to put the future transportation project Southern Maryland Rapid Transit on track and moving.

A ceremonial check for $5 million in federal funding was presented to Charles County for the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project in La Plata, Maryland. (WTOP/John Domen)

Southern Maryland is no longer the sleepy, sparsely populated region it used to be, and that’s why local, state and federal lawmakers gathered in La Plata to tout millions of dollars to put the future transportation project Southern Maryland Rapid Transit on track and moving.

“That choo-choo train will be rolling soon,” said State Senator Arthur Ellis, who has made the project a priority since arriving in Annapolis in 2019.

The light rail system would operate between White Plains and the Branch Avenue subway, making 13 stops in total, five in Charles County, the remaining eight in Prince George’s County, carrying approximately 24,000 to 28,000 people each day.



“The intersection at 301 and 5 is the worst,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a St. Mary’s County resident who said once he reached Charles County, “bam, we stop”.

A map of the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project path. (WTOP/John Domen)

Hoyer and Sen. Ben Cardin were on hand with a ceremonial check for $5 million in federal funding that will help cover some of the costs to move this light rail project forward.

Annapolis lawmakers ensured that the state would match every federal dollar in this phase.

“It’s more than a dream,” Ellis said. “It’s not a dream, it’s not a conversation, it’s happening, baby. It’s happening.

Ellis said state studies have shown for years that a project like this is necessary. The money invested will go to “engineering the system, designing it, and then getting what we call a record of decision,” which determines whether the construction of the project is eligible for federal funding.

“That’s the essential step,” Ellis said. “We look forward to the construction phase taking place in a few years.”

He said state transportation leaders already have the project in mind.

Ellis said the overpasses at the intersection of Routes 5 and 301, “a light rail system has been designed in this corridor of Route 5.”

Once light rail trains start running parallel to Route 301, he said they will run along CSX tracks used by trains carrying coal from West Virginia to a disused power plant.

“Those are good leads,” Ellis said.

A map of the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project path. (WTOP/John Domen)

While press conference attendees touted the economic development that would occur around the 13 different stops — with transit-oriented development still a big deal — it was quality of life issues that did the most. speak.

“People aren’t going to waste all their time in traffic jams,” Cardin said.

“There were mothers and fathers, employees and employers who spent hours and hours and hours a day sitting in traffic,” said Maryland State Senate Speaker Bill Ferguson.

“Those are minutes that could go to kids’ baseball games. Could be spent imagining the next tech company. When we talk about the Southern Maryland rapid transit line, we’re not just talking about transportation,” he said. “What we’re talking about is enhancing the human experience, giving people time back so they can live the life they deserve.”

Jose P. Rogers