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Schaefer- Seek funding now

October 26, 2000

Schaefer- Seek funding now



By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer


If Washington County's lawmakers want state funds to extend the local airport runway, or for any other capital project, they need to ask the governor for the money now, Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer said Wednesday.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is going to push for money for the new Wilson Bridge, Schaefer told business and civic leaders at the Four Points Sheraton Inn.

The 12-lane bridge will cost an estimated $2.2 billion and will replace the old span connecting Maryland and Virginia over the Potomac River.

"I can see necessary projects of the state getting lost because of lack of money," Schaefer said in an interview before his speech.

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"That runway is important to this area and the entire state," Schaefer said.

Washington County documents estimate the cost of extending the Hagerstown Regional Airport runway at $38.3 million.

That includes $14 million the county wants the state to fund for underpasses that would allow the runway to cross U.S. 11, said Washington County Commissioner William J. Wivell, who attended the lunch at the Sheraton.

Glendening has committed $200 million to the Wilson bridge, said project spokesman John Undeland. Construction began last week and is expected to be complete by early 2007.

Schaefer said the Wilson Bridge could cost less if nonunion firms could bid on the work, but Glendening wants union workers.

"I see the Wilson Bridge gobbling up all the money," Schaefer told local leaders.

Schaefer addressed local leaders briefly, at the beginning and end of a presentation by the Comptroller's Office concerning the services they provide. Both times he spoke energetically and repeatedly warned lawmakers they need to unify the community and act quickly if they hope to get funding for the runway.

"Go down this year and get in line for that extension to the airfield," Schaefer said. "I can only warn you that if you don't it may not be there."

After Schaefer's presentation Del. Robert A. McKee, chairman of the Maryland General Assembly's Washington County Delegation, said local lawmakers need to meet with Glendening as soon as possible.

Before lawmakers can do that, the commissioners need to make sure the airport runway is their top capital priority for state funding, Wivell said.

The runway extension is considered important for economic development because it would better accommodate larger planes and allow local trucking companies to send and receive freight here rather than at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The county wants to extend the runway from 5,450 feet to 7,000 feet. The latest plan calls for building two adjacent underpasses, allowing U.S. 11 to go under the runway.

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