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$60 million in road funds pledged

September 21, 2000

Dept. of Transportation$60 million in road funds pledged



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

See also: Transportation projects

Maryland's transportation director said Thursday the state has earmarked nearly $60 million for transportation projects in Washington County over the next six years, including more than $11 million for projects during the next year.

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The money is included in a record $8.6 billion draft of a 6-year plan for the state, Transportation Secretary John C. Porcari said during an annual meeting with local officials at the County Administration Building.

The department also will give Washington County an estimated $57 million in highway-user revenues over the next 6 years, he said.

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Porcari promised the state would help pay for changes to U.S. 11 related to a proposed runway extension at Hagerstown Regional Airport but said it was too soon to say how much money would be forthcoming.

Porcari said if the county lists the work as its top priority among its transportation projects, the state will chip in an undetermined amount.

Porcari was unwilling to commit money to help fund a project commonly called the Funkstown bypass, noting the state does not usually get involved in local roads issues. He said he saw no reason to make an exception in this case.

Washington County Commissioner John L. Schnebly, who pushed for funding the project, said he plans to lobby state officials for funds for the road project.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the county wants the state to help pay for work on U.S. 11 related to extending Hagerstown Regional Airport's 5,450-foot runway to 7,000 feet. Work is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2003 and to be completed by 2005.

The county has estimated the cost of the runway extension, which would cross over U.S. 11, at $38.3 million. The current plan calls for building two adjacent underpasses where U.S. 11 would go under the runway.

The county does not plan to pay more than 5 percent of the total cost, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said after the meeting.

Porcari said transportation officials were aware of the project and typically would help with a project of that nature.

He said, however, the expansion was not listed in the state's 6-year transportation plan and it would be premature to speculate on how much the state might contribute.

Snook later said he was encouraged by Porcari's response and would arrange a meeting between county and state officials to talk further about plans and a funding commitment.

Schnebly and Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II requested help getting funding for the proposed Southern Boulevard, the new project name for a road that would bypass Funkstown.

The road would not be a bypass but an "urban highway" because it would move traffic through, not around, the eastern and southern parts of the county, Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said this week.

The road would go from Oak Ridge Avenue west of Funkstown to Edgewood Drive north of Funkstown, Rohrer said.

Bruchey estimated the total cost at $12 million to $15 million. The project would help avoid the "destruction of Funkstown," he said.

Bruchey and Schnebly told transportation officials that any financial help from the state toward the project would be appreciated.

Funding help is unlikely since the road would be a local project, Porcari said after the meeting.

The project has received much attention lately due to a proposal to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter near Funkstown.

The issue is larger than Wal-Mart, Bruchey said. There is a need for Southern Boulevard regardless of whether Wal-Mart builds there, he said.

During his oral report, Williams said the state is continuing to explore a widening of Interstate 81.

Work also is continuing on a $766,000 multi-state study into upgrading existing roads or building a new major north-south corridor in the Western Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia region to encourage and enhance economic development, he said.

Studied corridors include Interstate 81, U.S. 219, U.S. 220 and U.S. 522, he said. That study will be finished this spring, he said.

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