Right there across from Jim's Fresh Sliced Meats, the Salon de Beaute and the Ferndale Volunteer Fire Department, Maryland's secretary oftransportation forgot where he was.
"Here in the fine community of Linthicum . . .," began O. James Lighthizer during a ceremony yesterday to pull the last spikes from the old Baltimore & Annapolis railroad bed to make way for the Central Light Rail Line.
"Uh, Jim. Ferndale," interrupted Leo Harnen, president of the Ferndale-Linthicum Area Community Council.
As the crowd that huddled under umbrellas against a bone-chilling drizzle dissolved in laughter, state Sen. Mike Wagner, who represents the area, pointed to the large, brass letters on the wall of the firehouse.
George Bachman, the county councilman from Linthicum, shouted encouragement to Lighthizer, who eventually continued, but with a sheepish smile.
Lighthizer reminded the crowd of North County politicians and civil leaders that way back when he was a freshman state delegate from Crofton, he advocated a network of light-rail lines, one of them through the spot where they were standing.
State transportation officials shelved the proposal then, but it has since been revived, and in some areas the$446.3 million project nears completion.
Track has been laid fromHunt Valley to the bridge over the Patapsco River. Already cars are being tested on a section of track that runs from North Avenue to Woodberry. The Mass Transit Administration plans to open the line for limited service from Timonium to Camden Yards on Orioles opening day onApril 6. Another section to the city line on Patapsco Avenue is to open later in the summer.
But the Anne Arundel County section won'topen until early in 1993.
Yesterday, Lighthizer touted the line as something "that will be of tremendous importance" to the state -- and northern Anne Arundel County in particular -- by providing safe, reliable means of getting people to jobs and shopping without further clogging of overcrowded highways.
Light rail is reminiscent of theold-time trolley system that "did something real nice," he said. "Itworked."
Harnen, who rode B & A trains from his old home in Linthicum to Baltimore for 19 cents, recalled that the railroad, which connected the state's capital with its largest city, "played an important part in the formation of our community."
"Small communities grewup along the way," he said. "Then, the railroad transported millionsof passengers. Today, we move on to a new mode of transportation, and we are looking forward to it."
"This is going to be the thing ofthe future," Wagner said. "And the people here have been very positive. For that, I'm proud."
Finally, Wagner and Lighthizer posed with a large blue crowbar, prying up the first of four spikes that once held rails in place.
Of course, they didn't have to pry too hard. Jim Mekins, an MTA inspector, had been there an hour earlier to make the job easier.
"I got them out, then tapped them back in," he explained. "We wouldn't want any of these politicians to hurt themselves."