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Runway project off radar screen

January 22, 2001

Runway project off radar screen



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


As far as Maryland transportation officials are concerned, Hagerstown Regional Airport's proposed runway extension isn't even on the radar screen.

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Maryland transportation officials failed to add the project to its long-term plan this year.

Local officials say they'll keep trying to convince the state that lengthening the runway is crucial to the future of Washington County and the state.

The state updates its six-year transportation plan every year. When the latest plan was released this month, it contained no new projects for Washington County.

The plan calls for finishing the reconstruction of Interstate 81's Halfway Boulevard interchange in 2002.

It also includes a study of Interstate 81, which is expected to show the need for widening the four-lane highway.

But there was no mention of Hagerstown Regional Airport. A spokesman for the Maryland Aviation Administration said it's too early for the agency to comment on the project's future.

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Airport Manager Carolyn Motz said she's undaunted.

"I haven't given up all hopes for this year. We have a lot at stake. It's a matter of us taking our time to explain what all is at stake for the state," she said.

The runway extension plan is still in the early stages of getting approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Washington County Commissioners said the runway extension is their top priority.

"We're going to have to do some lobbying because that is so critical to Washington County," said Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook.

If the runway isn't lengthened, Hagerstown could lose its passenger service as airlines switch to the use of larger regional jets.

Local government and business leaders have met with state officials about the project, which will be expensive because of the need to lower U.S. 11 to run underneath the runway.

Members of the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly said they'll set up yet another meeting to drive home their point.

"I want this to be on the radar screen," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington. "I think we ought to move on it this session. This is the county's top priority and I think it should be ours too."

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