Whistle stop

Anyone who has been around long enough to hear the storied history of Aberdeen can attest that if it weren't for the railroads, the city wouldn't be what it is today.

Long before there was an Aberdeen Proving Ground, there were train stations in Aberdeen, serving both passengers and those who needed freight hauled to market. Aberdeen may not have been the rail hub Perryville once was, but its whistle stop status didn't hurt its standing a century and then some ago when the community was coming into its own.

Strangely, Aberdeen in recent decades has been largely estranged from the rail lines that pass through it. And pass through is mostly what trains do in Aberdeen. For the dozens of Amtrak passenger trains and the many freight trains that move through the city, stops are relatively rare. Then there's the MARC rail line that offers commuters the option of taking the train to work in Baltimore and points beyond on weekdays.

Rail service lately hasn't been a high-profile issue for Aberdeen. There's been talk from time to time for more than two decades about improving the look of Aberdeen's Amtrak and MARC station. Lately, too, there's been some discussion of restoring the historic rail station that's been boarded up for years over on West Bel Air Avenue.

As for the plans for the Amtrak and MARC station, the time really has come for getting the project in gear. The BRAC expansion at Aberdeen Proving Ground should have been cause for both the state and federal governments to put up money to turn the Aberdeen station into something that could be a major downtown hub.

That opportunity was largely missed, but, then again, BRAC is here to stay, as are its commuters.

There's also the matter that the federal government has been looking for so-called shovel ready projects to improve U.S. infrastructure, and there are so many plans and visions for a nice train station in Aberdeen it shouldn't be too hard to pull something together and beat the drum for getting some money.

In modern times, Aberdeen's train stations have been ominous places to visit, making them unattractive to commuters and travelers. A change in the look of the one station still in use could do a lot to present Aberdeen's bright side to a world that has been passing it by for years. While the state and federal governments, by virtue of their being the respective owners of the MARC and Amtrak lines, have the responsibility to pay for a new station, the elected leaders in Aberdeen and Harford County also need to take it upon themselves to lobby for money for the station.

Otherwise, Aberdeen's recent efforts to plan for a new train station, such as are ongoing this week, will end up neatly written down in a report and left on a shelf somewhere, along with all the other ones that have been done in the last two decades.

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