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MTA resumes partial bus, light rail service

TransportationRailway Transportation

As major arteries in Baltimore and across the state were scraped down to the blacktop yesterday, buses and trains began limited service by midafternoon. But officials warned that the region's transportation networks will take days to fully recover.

The Maryland Transit Administration resumed service on parts of nine bus lines and a northern stretch of the light rail line yesterday. Officials expect more bus lines to be in service today on main roads and snow emergency routes.

Maryland Rail Commuter trains are to begin running today after being shut down for two days. Officials of MARC and Amtrak, which owns the tracks used by MARC's Penn Line, disagreed about who decided to cancel service, each saying the other was responsible.

The State Highway Administration cut in half the amount of snow-removal equipment on the roads yesterday and replaced some plows with front-end loaders to push snow off shoulders. Most interstate lanes were clear yesterday, a spokeswoman said.

Baltimore-Washington International Airport met its goal of returning planes to the skies yesterday morning. One of the airport's two runways was open, and the seven taxiways were slowly reopening.

The first flight since Saturday took off from BWI at 7:35 a.m. yesterday and was followed by 44 more by late afternoon. Arrivals resumed in the afternoon, and at least 13 flights landed.

Passengers returning from long holiday weekends to find their cars snowed in on BWI parking lots will get help digging out. The airport is allowing departing passengers to park in the hourly garage for $9 a day.

"We're moving as rapidly as we can to return to normal," said Jack Cahalan, spokesman for the state Transportation Department. He said the airport was hampered by delays elsewhere in the Northeast.

The MTA scrambled to get buses and trains moving yesterday when it became clear that roads had improved. Besides the nine bus lines that resumed partial service - 2, 5, 7, 13, 23, 77, M1, M2 and M3 - light rail between Hunt Valley and North Avenue began operating at midafternoon. The subway didn't run yesterday, but officials hoped to get it running today.

The MTA lagged behind the Washington-area Metro subway system, which ran all day yesterday at 30-minute intervals. Trains also ran underground Monday. Metro buses were on a Sunday schedule on main roads yesterday and Monday.

"We decided to keep buses going to provide some type of service to our customers if they absolutely had to go somewhere," said Steven Taubenkibel, a Metro spokesman.

MTA spokesman Alonza Williams said the agency encountered problems that kept it from resuming service before yesterday afternoon. The principal one was city roads, which remained treacherous in places yesterday morning.

He said the reopening of the subway was delayed because snow kept blowing into the tunnel entrances and the third rail - which provides most of the power - was covered with snow and ice in many places.

The problem with light rail, which runs at street level, was that city crews plowed snow on top of tracks that MTA crews had cleared, Williams said.

The MTA also had apparent communication problems with Amtrak. Amtrak ran trains from Baltimore to Washington yesterday along rails also used by MARC on a typical weekday. But MARC trains were not running. MTA officials said Amtrak told them they could not use the tracks yesterday.

Amtrak disagreed.

"The decision to not run service on the Penn Line was entirely MARC's decision," said Amtrak spokesman Dan Stessel. He said tracks were in fine shape and that MARC was told it was welcome to use them.

MARC's Penn Line is to operate today on a holiday schedule. The Camden Line will run trains 845 and 849 in the morning and trains 848 and 852 in the afternoon. There will be no MARC service to Frederick today.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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