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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Williams still big fan of proposed excursion trains

Although the Worcester County Commissioners appeared to cool on the idea and a deal is far from inevitable, Berlin Mayor Gee Williams remains a major proponent of the proposed excursion train.
Last week Stone Consulting Vice President Randall Gustafson told the commissioners that its phase two of a $20,000 feasibility study found that an excursion train could generate $1.9 million in ticket sales revenue during its first year, versus about $1.7 in operating costs.
He projected more than 72,000 people riding the train annually, along with $17.6 million in total revenue to the area, creating more than 470 full-time jobs.
While several proposed paths and starting points were suggested in the study, Williams said a route that started in Berlin and traveled to Showell, “is the option that requires the least amount of up-front investment with the greatest potential return.”
“Berlin is not only positioned well geographically, but one of the things they look at is, is their base of operations already a destination? The answer in Berlin’s case is absolutely,” Williams said. “We are a destination community by design, we have 24 well-established, very successful events and they could piggyback on those events.”
During the holiday season, Williams said, the train could offer themed rides like the Polar Express, which he called “the most popular train excursion in the world.”
“All of this makes a lot of sense, basing it out of Berlin,” he said. “This is also good news for Worcester County, regardless of where it starts. It’s all new economic development.”
He added that the train would spell good news – not competition – for Ocean City because the majority of tickets would be sold during the shoulder season.
“Anybody who thinks this is a competitive element with Ocean City is definitely stuck on an island in terms of their vision of the 21st century,” he said. “The largest single segment of new revenue coming into Worcester County would be in the fall – October, November, December.
“What makes Berlin a destination community without losing our identity and our quality of life is that when people come to our town and enjoy themselves, shop, experience America the way it should be, they [then] go to a hotel or a motel or home,” he said, adding that Berlin only had a very limited number of available rooms.
“This is the perfect economic opportunity for Ocean City to have more employment [and] more dollars generated that go back to our local tax base and our local economy, working with Berlin as a partner – certainly not a competitor.”
Williams said that the train would ultimately be a “private-sector decision,” meaning public tax dollars would likely not be at risk.
“This is not something that would be funded or decided by the Worcester County Commissioners, which have been very supportive, or by the town of berlin, which I believe has been very supportive,” he said. “When the rubber meets the road with investing dollars, that’s going to be the private sector. It won’t be taxpayers.”
Williams added that a train excursion beginning in Berlin is not only an economically sound investment, according to the phase two study, but the findings of the most recent evaluation were better than what the initial study found.
 “From the people who are experts in the field, there’s no doubt that the market for Worcester County for a train excursion based in Berlin is not only a good market, but an ideal market for the Mid-Atlantic.”