Commuters from Baltimore and Washington and business owners in Odenton stand to benefit from a new bus line that will cart workers from the Odenton train station to their jobs.
The line, which will serve only the Odenton industrial area bounded by Routes 32, 175 and 170, is a one-year pilot project of the Corridor Transportation Co., a nonprofit group that tries to solve transportation issues in the mid-Maryland region.
The Federal Transit Administration and the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation each gave a $45,000 grant for the program, said Walt Townshend, a CTC board member.
"We've heard from a lot of businesses that they have a great need for warehouse workers," he said. "A great number of these folks are in entry-level positions and if you don't have a car, how do you get there?"
The bus line, run by Yellow Transportation, will operate during peak morning and evening hours of the Maryland Rail Commuter trains -- from about 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3: 30 p.m. to 6: 30 p.m. It should be able to meet 12 morning and 12 evening trains from both directions.
The bus line will begin and end at the train station, and follow Route 170, stopping in front of U.S. Food Service, International Paper and other major employers. The bus routes could be altered to accommodate smaller firms along the route, officials said.
The bus service is expected to begin within two weeks. CTC is awaiting permission from the state Public Service Commission, which must approve all bus routes. Service will be free for at least the first year.
"We have coordinated with many of the job placement programs both at the state and local levels," said Peter Hefler, CTC transit administrator. "It's open to anybody looking to get to work."
Area business owners said they thought the bus route would help their employees, and that it couldn't have come at a better time. With a low unemployment rate in the county -- 3.5 percent last year, according to the most recent figures from the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation -- most of the companies are having a hard time finding people for entry-level and lower-paying jobs.
"For our area, I would say it's needed very, very bad," said Brian Warner, plant manager of Hi-Tech Color in Odenton. "There's a lot of people who come from Baltimore City. If their car fails, they lose their job. Anybody who has lost his job in this area, it's been because of transportation problems. The railroad is nice, but you've gotta get from the railroad station to here."
At least one owner said he'd love to see the service in Odenton, but is concerned the program will take time to develop. The grants will run out in a year, and if the project is successful, organizers say they may have to ask businesses to pitch in for the cost next year.
"It opens the opportunity for people in Baltimore or Washington to work if they don't have transportation," said Norm Myers, president of Revere Printing.
"I can see that this kind of transportation is needed, but I can see where it takes time to develop," he said.