THE Maryland Department of Transportation - Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) has signed framework agreements with Delaware Transit and Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) to explore the possibility of extending the Maryland Area Rail Commuter (Marc) network.

The agreements outline the next steps to advance discussions and explore pilot service opportunities for extending the Marc network to Newark, Delaware and Alexandria, Virginia.

According to the Office of Maryland governor, Mr Wes Moore, providing a seamless rail service both north and south of Maryland would be “a critical component” in transforming Marc “from a local, commuter rail to a regional rail provider.”

For the proposed service to Newark, MTA and Delaware will now engage with regional stakeholders and agencies to help determine operational and infrastructure needs.

The project aims to close a gap in the commuter services provided by different operators along the North East Corridor, by extending Marc’s Penn Line from its current terminus at Perryville, Maryland, to Newark.

Newark is currently served by commuter trains operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Septa).

To introduce direct services between Maryland and Alexandria in northern Virginia, MTA will be working with Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, commuter operator Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and inter-city passenger operator Amtrak, as well as freight railway CSX, which owns the infrastructure.

According to the governor’s office, the new service is dependent on completion of the Long Bridge project, which includes a new rail bridge spanning the Potomac River from Washington DC to Virginia and the provision of a fourth track in both the District of Columbia and northern Virginia.

In the short term, MTA will work with VRE to improve connections between Marc and VRE services at Washington Union Station.

“We must take a regional approach to create a fully connected transportation network, and these agreements will help us deliver seamless transit service across state lines,” says MTA secretary, Mr Paul Wiedefeld.

“This partnership on a framework agreement is an important first step forward for VPRA to further advance the commonwealth’s goal of reducing congestion on our roads and highways by providing more reliable, consistent and accessible passenger rail transportation options,” says VPRA executive director, Mr D J Stadtler.