Merle Elliott, the president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation (CHIEF), said convenient, ready access to the interstate would entice more companies to locate in the 2,000 acres planned for industrial development in the Hopewell Road area.
Elliott also said development of the Hopewell Road area also is critical to making the Conococheague Wastewater Treatment Plant pay for itself. The county plant now operates at less than half its capacity.
The eight-lane Halfway Boulevard bridge will have two through lanes in each direction and double left-hand turn lanes onto the interstate. It will replace the current two-lane bridge.
Glendening said a strong, united effort by leaders in the county, especially the County Commissioners, convinced him to fund the project.
"One person has just harassed me, and that's this man right behind me, (Commissioner) Ron Bowers," Glendening said.
Bowers said he remembers trying to attract the Konica copier company to Hagerstown in 1983, but the company went elsewhere in part because of the Halfway interchange.
Bowers said the new interchange will open up prime land for economic development and prepare Washington County for the 21st century.
"We appreciate what you've done for us today," County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook told Glendening.
"Clearly the winners in this project are the citizens of Washington County."
Snook credited a team effort over many years.
Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said the county has been trying to get the interchange upgraded for eight years.
"I'm ecstatic. This is a big shot in the arm for Washington County," he said.
Rohrer said the county already has planned road improvements that will be coordinated with the interchange upgrade, including a $3.44 million upgrade to the intersection of Hopewell Road and Halfway Boulevard, plans to replace the CSX bridge over Halfway Boulevard, and $1.85 million to upgrade the intersection of Massey Boulevard and Halfway Boulevard.
Rohrer said that in the past three years, four major businesses have located in the Hopewell Road area, investing $84 million and providing 835 new jobs.
Glendening said the interchange would help economic development but would also help safety. He said citizens have told him about traffic backing up onto the interstate because the interchange can't handle the volume.
Glendening also said he would be willing to support some state funding for a new baseball stadium in Hagerstown, but only if the local governments and private investors are behind it first.