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Harford airport plan soars, as local effort bogs down

January 24, 2001

Harford airport plan soars, as local effort bogs down



Airport-related matters made news in two Maryland publications Tuesday, but there was no happy ending in either story for Washington County. A look at the details suggests that officials here are going to have to work harder to make their dreams come true.

The bad news came just at the start of the Maryland General Assembly's 2001 session, when the county's state lawmakers learned that there's been no money set aside in the state's six-year transportation plan for a proposed runway extension at the Hagerstown Regional Airport.

Last October, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer advised the county to get in line early for state funds for the $38.3 million project, which would include $14 million for underpasses to take U.S. 11 underneath the runway, which would be extended from 5,450 to 7,000 feet.

The project is considered important because as the larger metropolitan area airports get more and more crowded, there'll be pressure to find other places to land larger jets, providing a number of new business opportunities. A longer runway would also allow local trucking companies to send and receive air freight here. Now, local officials say, a major lobbying effort will be needed to get state transportation officials on board.

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Perhaps local officials could ask their counterparts in Harford County how they got Maryland transportation officials behind their effort to create an industrial park alongside the Aberdeen Proving Ground's 8,000-foot runway.

The Baltimore Sun reported that Harford County's proposal to acquire an ownership stake in property near the air strip has "vast economic development potential."

The Sun also reported that the project already has state officials' backing, as well as that of the Federal Aviation Administration and a host of local business groups. Certainly it helps that the runway is already built, but Harford County officials did a lot of things right to get their project this far, and it wouldn't hurt for some local officials to ask them how they pulled it off.

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