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Bill provides millions for Hopewell Road area

March 27, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Bill provides millions for Hopewell Road area

A federal transportation bill passed by a House committee this week would provide $4 million for road improvements near the Halfway Boulevard and Interstate 81 interchange.

Washington County officials said the grant would speed up the project, which they have identified as the key to economic development and job growth west of Hopewell Road.

"We're really excited about the possibility of receiving additional funds for road improvements in that area," County Administrator Rodney Shoop said. "It would really mean a lot to the overall improvement of that area."

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The grant money is part of a $217 billion, six-year highway transportation bill called BESTEA - Building Efficient Surface Transportation Equity Act. The $4 million is in addition to the $417 million average Maryland will receive each year.

The bill unanimously passed the House Transportation Committee Tuesday night and could come up for a vote by the full House as early as next week, said Lisa Wright, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md.

The Senate has passed a similar version of the bill, but it contains only block grant money.

The grant is one of many additional construction projects that were added to the House bill by U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

After the House passes the bill, representatives from both chambers will hammer out a compromise bill.

Washington County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said the grant is important because it will help pay for a series of construction projects needed to alleviate traffic congestion that threatens to choke development in the area.

"The future of economic development in Washington County and the I-81 corridor is totally dependent on traffic improvements in that area," he said.

The grant, if ultimately approved, would allow the county to redirect money allocated for the project, said Public Works Director Gary Rohrer. He said officials need to review the legislation more closely before deciding details.

"We have yet to discuss that amongst ourselves," he said.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced in January that he would fund $11 million of the $13.7 million cost of the interchange upgrade. That project would include an eight-lane bridge over I-81.

The long-term strategic plan for the area, now called Hopewell Valley, calls for a four-lane extension to Md. 63, a four-lane connection to U.S. 40 called Newgate Boulevard, and other improvements for a total cost of more than $20 million.

The county does not have the money to fund all of those projects at once.

Money has been allocated to upgrade the intersection of Hopewell Road and Halfway Boulevard; widen and upgrade the bridge over the CSX tracks; and improve the intersection of Massey and Halfway boulevards.

Since the Senate transportation bill does not contain the $4 million grant, local officials caution that it's not a sure thing. However, they said they remain hopeful.

Wright said Bartlett would work to keep the funding in the legislation.

"This is not the end of the legislative action, but it's a good step," she said.

Bowers said economic development along I-81 should appeal to more than just Washington County.

"Regionally, we all come out a winner," he said.

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