Baltimore, Maryland/Baltimore Central Light Rail Double Tracking

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Baltimore Central Light Rail Double Tracking

Baltimore, MD

(November 1998)


The Maryland Mass Transit Administration proposes to construct 9.4 miles of track to upgrade designated areas of the Baltimore Central Light Rail Line (CLRL) that are currently single track. The CLRL is 29 miles long and operates from Hunt Valley in the north to Cromwell/Glen Burnie in the south, serving Baltimore City and Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties, with extensions providing service to Amtrak at Penn Station and the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The proposed project will double track eight sections of the CLRL between Timonium and Cromwell Station/Glen Burnie. Although no new stations are required, the addition of a second track will require construction of second station platforms at four stations where side boarding platforms are now in use. Other elements included in the double track project are bridge and crossing improvements, bi-directional signal system with traffic signal preemption on Howard Street, and catenary and other equipment and systems. The double tracking will be constructed almost entirely in existing right-of-way. The MTA estimates the total cost of these improvements at $150 million (in escalated dollars).

Baltimore Central Light Rail Double Tracking Summary Description

Proposed Project Light rail line double tracking 9.4 miles, new platforms at 4 stations.
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $150.00 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $120.00 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1997) $6.58 million
Ridership Forecast (2020) 6,750 daily new riders
FY 2000 Finance Rating: Medium
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Medium-High
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


The original Central Corridor Light Rail Line was built entirely with local funds. The line began operations in 1992 as single track. MTA subsequently examined the feasibility and environmental impacts and benefits of double tracking eight sections. The double track project was adopted by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and included in its financially constrained long range plan in 1993.

FTA approved (in January 1999) MTA’s request to enter preliminary engineering, which will be divided into two segments. The preliminary engineering and environmental review phase for the Southern segment, Cromwell Station to Hamburg Street, is anticipated to be completed by Spring 1999 with a Record of Decision (ROD) expected by Summer 1999. The PE phase for the Northern segment, North Avenue to Timonium, is anticipated to be complete in late 1999 or early 2000; MTA estimates a ROD for the Northern segment by Spring 2000.

Section 3030(a)(42) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) authorizes the "Maryland – Light Rail Double Track" for final design and construction. Section 3030(g)(1)(C) specifies that the "Baltimore-Washington Transportation Improvements Program" projects will be funded at an 80 percent Federal share, comparing the aggregate expenditure of State and local funds, including highway funds, provided by the State of Maryland for all phases of the Central Corridor Light Rail project. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $1 million for the project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Criteria was submitted on the entire 29 mile CLRL corridor. The MTA did not provide data comparing the New Start to a TSM alternative. N/A indicates that the data are not available for a specific measure.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium

MTA estimates the following annual travel time savings.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 0.3 million hours N/A

Based on 1990 Census data, there are an estimated 7,315 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of stations along the proposed double track project.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: High

The Baltimore Metropolitan Area is a severe non-attainment area for ozone. MTA estimates that in 2020, the CLRL double tracking would result in the following annual emissions reductions.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) reduction of 301 annual tons N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) reduction of 2700 annual tons N/A
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) reduction of 210 annual tons N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) No Change N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) reduction of 8,170 annual tons N/A

MTA estimates that in 2020, the project would result in the following savings in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (million) reduction of 9,095 million BTU N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

MTA estimates a slight decrease in the systemwide operating cost per passenger mile in the year 2020 for the CLRL double tracking compared to the No-Build alternative.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2025) $0.60 N/A $0.59

Note: Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium-High

MTA estimates the following cost effectiveness index.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $8.68 N/A

Note: Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium Land Use rating reflects the minimal progress made by local jurisdictions in developing policies to increase transit-supportive development beyond the CBD. The Central Corridor Light Rail Line traverses low to moderate density suburban communities, a portion of the CBD, and several entertainment and sports centers and tourist attractions. Nearly 20 percent of regional employment and 5 percent of residences are located within ½ mile of CLRL stations. Employment is forecast to increase slightly in the corridor but at a slower rate than regional employment growth. Corridor population is projected to decrease more than 10 percent by 2020. The State of Maryland’s "Smart Growth Initiative", is a very positive program aimed at managing growth and fostering more transit- and pedestrian-friendly communities. However, at the present time, policies of local jurisdictions in the corridor are only moderately supportive of transit-oriented growth management. Within downtown Baltimore, some revitalization efforts have been undertaken, including streetscape treatments, brownfields redevelopment, infill development at station areas and activity centers, and major renovations/historic redevelopment along Howard Street. Although mixed-use and commercial development continues to occur in suburban areas, with some efforts to integrate station area development at the north end of the corridor, pedestrian access in most station areas is relatively poor. An increase in the downtown parking supply has been recommended to increase economic development.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 20%

MTA proposes $120 million (80 percent) in Section 5309 new starts funds and $30 million (20 percent) of State funds. Section 3030(g)(1)(C) of TEA-21 specifies the 80 percent Federal share for this project, in recognition of previous State and local contributions for all phases of the CLRL including the State’s prior 100 percent investment in the CLRL main line. Taking these local investments into consideration results in an overall 38 percent Federal investment in the Central Corridor light rail system.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium

The capital plan is rated Medium based on the absence of an approved State financial commitment to the project, although the proposed local source --- the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund (MTTF) --- provides a stable revenue source for capital projects throughout the State. The State has expressed intent to commit $30 million -- $5 million for each of six years -- in the State’s FY 1999 – FY 2004 Consolidated Transportation Program as the local match. The State legislature is expected to act on this measure in the 1999 session. The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) has an overall debt limit of $1.2 billion, with $868 million outstanding as of January 1, 1998, and receives the second highest bond rating in the capital market. Revenues allocated to the MTTF exceed $2 billion annually, with stable and reliable -- but not inflation-sensitive -- revenue streams from its two largest sources, motor fuel and vehicle titling taxes. Historically, significant revenue growth has only resulted from statutory increases in specific user fees. Bonding capacity exists, and MDOT/MTA intends to reprogram funds for transit to leverage the Federal share. A 25 percent cost contingency is built into the cost estimates, as well as the additional capability of the MTTF to issue debt should the need arise.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium operating finance plan also reflects the absence of the State’s commitment to financially supporting project operations. Historically, MDOT and the MTA have operated and maintained the existing statewide transit system, while continuing to expand it. These operations are secured by the MTTF, with annual revenues exceeding $2 billion. No specific commitment of MTTF funds to the project yet exists. Estimated annual operating costs are $6.58 million ($ 1997). The MTA anticipates that farebox revenues would account for 55 to 60 percent of total system revenues; State law requires that operating revenues meet at least 50 percent of operating costs on a systemwide level.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Section 5309 New Start
$120.00 $1.00 million appropriated through FY 1999
$30.00 N/A
Total $150.00

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

[Baltimore Central Light Rail Double Tracking Map (PDF)]