The first light rail train pulled into Hunt Valley station yesterday morning, carrying hand-shaking politicians, curious shoppers, grateful workers and the promise of better times for the area's mall and business center.
"I love it," said Audrey Woodley, one of the first to ride the new 4.5-mile light rail extension. She took the bus from her home in Catonsville to the light rail stop near Lexington Market, intending to visit a friend in North Baltimore. But she changed her plans when she realized that the train would continue to Hunt Valley Mall.
"I decided to stay on and check it out," Woodley said. "I'm just browsing to see what they have out here."
Riding in the first car with Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Woodley looked out the window at the passing industrial parks, Genstar Stone Product's mammoth Texas stone quarry and McCormick & Co.'s pungent spice plant. Fourteen minutes after leaving the Timonium station, her train pulled up to the parking lot of Hunt Valley Mall.
Government officials and Hunt Valley business leaders hope the extension will bring additional workers and customers to the area. The Mass Transit Administration estimates 3,000 people a day will ride the extension by 2005.
Tim Edwards, a stock clerk at EOG Inc. in Hunt Valley, expects to be one of those riders. "You can't beat the service," said Edwards, who lives in Northwest Baltimore and plans to trade his car for the train in his commute.
Except yesterday he missed his stop. He boarded the light rail in Mount Washington and intended to get off at the Gilroy Road station, but the train didn't stop. Edwards continued to the mall, enjoying his ride with the governor and other dignitaries.
"Oh, well, I'm late anyway," he said. "And this is my chance to be on TV."
News crews and the governor weren't the only ones to witness the opening. County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Transportation Secretary David L. Winstead and Federal Transit Administrator Gordon Linton were there. The Kenwood High School Marching Band Combo played "It's a Small World" and Maryland Treasurer Louis L. Goldstein thanked everyone with his folksy drawl and his trademark "God bless y'all real good."
"Today Hunt Valley, tomorrow the world," proclaimed an exuberant Winstead. In November, light rail extensions are to open at Penn Station and Baltimore-Washington International Airport, making the world more accessible to Baltimore-area commuters.
Glendening used the occasion to emphasize his program aimed at directing development to existing communities.
"This is about community revitalization. This is making established communities strong and healthy. It's about getting people to their jobs," the governor said. "We are never going to build enough roads to meet all the demand that is there."
The Hunt Valley extension connects Baltimore with one of the state's largest employment centers. About 340 companies with 30,000 workers are in the Hunt Valley corridor.
While corporate executives say the rail link will make it easier to recruit workers to the area, mall retailers hope the trains will bring more customers.
"It's good to see all the cars in the parking lot," said mall General Manager Frederick C. Paine, as he looked out on the crowd enjoying the festivities. "I hope that's a sign of the future."
The mall is scheduled to break ground this year on a $45 million expansion and renovation that will add a Wal-Mart, a 12-screen cinema, a bank and three new restaurants, as well as many smaller retailers.
Trying to dispel worries about crime around light rail stations, officials emphasized safety precautions that have been made. County police will patrol the stations and an MTA police officer will be on every train. Marked police cruisers and bicycle patrols were noticeable at the opening ceremony.
"We're not going to let crime override what we are doing today," Ruppersberger said.
Raymond and Agnes Hofmann of Orchard Beach in Anne Arundel County were looking forward to shopping at Hunt Valley Mall as an alternative to stores near their home.
Yesterday, they boarded the light rail at its southern terminus in Glen Burnie and rode it to the end.
"It was a beautiful ride," Agnes Hoffman said.
"It beats driving," Raymond Hofmann said. "This is much more convenient."
Pub Date: 9/10/97