Light rail service will not operate at five stations south of Baltimore for most of May as the Maryland Transit Administration is set to begin track repairs next week, the agency said Thursday.

Shuttle buses running every 20 to 25 minutes will take passengers between the affected stations, which include Linthicum, Ferndale, Glen Burnie, BWI Business District and BWI. The agency plans to reopen the stations and restore full service on May 25. Light rail service from the northern terminus at Hunt Valley south through the North Linthicum station will operate as normal.

“We recognize the impact this project will have on light rail riders and we’re grateful for their patience as we complete this much needed state of good repair maintenance,” said Maryland Transit Administrator Holly Arnold in an emailed release. “This project will help to make our light rail system more resilient and decrease future delays for riders.”

The temporary station closures represent the first major service disruption since the entire light rail line shut down for two weeks in December due to problems with the train cars.

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The agency suspended service in early December out of an abundance of caution after an electrical problem sparked a small explosion and punctured a hole in one of the train cars while in service. The train car had recently been rehabbed by vehicle manufacturer Alstom as a part of a delayed maintenance overhaul of all 53 Baltimore light rail cars. Arnold’s team made the decision to pull service because it was unclear how many rehabbed rail cars had the same defect.

The Federal Transit Administration announced a more than $200 million grant in February to help replace the light rail fleet, which is now approaching the end of its anticipated 30-year lifespan.

The MTA is facing a large backlog of work for “state of good repair” — the transportation sector goal of ensuring assets like roads, bridges and rail cars are in safe, working order. The agency’s 2022 Capital Needs Inventory estimated the light rail system would need $620 million over ten years to maintain a state of good repair, roughly 12% of the agency’s overall maintenance needs that include investments in buses, MARC commuter service and the subway line.

Those costs are growing as inflation continues to raise prices across the industry and as the agency builds new service, like the northern Washington, D.C., suburbs’ Purple Line light rail.

Such maintenance funding for Baltimore-area transit represents a small portion of the Maryland Department of Transportation’s six-year capital spending plan totaling more than $20 billion. Nearly half of that total goes to roads and bridges, and the rest is split between transit, airport and port facilities. About 16% goes to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the Washington, D.C., transit agency.

Worried how the station shutdowns may affect your commute? Check the region’s station map here and be sure to follow the mobile Transit application for real-time route information.

Daniel Zawodny covers transportation for the The Baltimore Banner as a corps member with Report For America. He is a Baltimore area native and graduated with his master's degree in journalism from American University in 2021. He is bilingual in English and Spanish and previously covered immigration issues.

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