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State to study widening of I-81

January 17, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening has added $1.6 million to the state's six-year transportation plan for the widening of Interstate 81 in Washington County, his office said Monday.

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"That's absolutely fantastic news. I'm glad the governor has acknowledged the need to do that," said Fred Teeter, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

For three years, the county's business and government leaders have been asking the state to widen the 13 miles of heavily traveled highway.

The $1.6 million Glendening earmarked for 2002 will be used to study adding one lane in each direction of the four-lane highway, said Jack Cahalan, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation.

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This represents the first time the state has earmarked any significant amount of money for a project.

"I applaud the governor. The study's the first step. I-81 represents a good part of our lifeline," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany/Garrett, has also supported the widening in recent weeks, Munson said.

Virginia and West Virginia have already begun widening their portions of the interstate.

"If we don't move forward, we will become the bottleneck," Munson said.

Virginia has done a $17 million study on its 325 miles of the interstate.

By next year, extra lanes will have been added between King Street and W.Va. 901 in Berkeley County, W.Va.

Pennsylvania has so far been reluctant to look at widening its portion of the highway.

The I-81 project is one of 70 transit, highway, aviation and maritime projects Glendening added to the state's capital transportation budget for 2000 to 2005.

The additional $2.7 billion brings the state's transportation spending plan to an unprecedented $8 billion.

"Lt. Governor Townsend and I are making a record-breaking investment in Maryland's transportation network which will allow us to move forward on an unprecedented number of projects in every corner of the state," Glendening said.

Also added to the plan was $600,000 for a multi-state study for a new interstate corridor from West Virginia to Pennsylvania. Some possibilities for the new route include U.S. 219, U.S. 220 and U.S. 522.

Glendening added $31 million for improvements along Interstate 70 in Frederick County, Md., and more than $300 million to improve roads in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

He added $50 million to extend MARC train service to Frederick.

Several projects were already included in the long-range transportation plan for Washington County, Cahalan said.

Among those are improvements to I-81's Halfway Boulevard interchange, replacement of a bridge on Md. 64 and Main Street projects in Boonsboro and Hancock.

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