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State officials say they back longer runway

March 03, 2001

State officials say they back longer runway



By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County officials were encouraged Friday about state support for a $60.7 million runway extension at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

Local and state elected officials met with key players such as Maryland Transportation Secretary John Porcari, Maryland Highway Administration Director Parker Williams and Federal Aviation Administration Regional Director Terry Page.

"It was helpful to get everybody at one table. I'm very pleased at the outcome," said Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

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Porcari agreed to examine the cost estimates to make sure they're firm, pin down how much money the county is willing to spend and then approach Gov. Parris Glendening to put money in the budget.

"I know time is of the essence. Rest assured this really is a high priority," Porcari said. "You have a very strong project here. It is always a question of having enough money."

Washington County has also requested state money to widen Interstate 81 from four to six lanes. Williams asked which project is more important.

Washington County Commissioners Bert L. Iseminger and John L. Schnebly, along with Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said the airport is the county's top priority.

Hagerstown Airport Manager Carolyn Motz outlined the need for extending the runway.

Without a longer runway, Hagerstown will likely lose its scheduled commercial air service, which has an economic impact of $50 million a year, she said.

The project will also fix the safety issues of having a runway that's locked in by Interstate 81 to the west and U.S. 11 to the east, she said.

The new, longer runway will bridge over the highway, which is one reason why the project is so expensive and why it will require a larger local share than most airport projects.

Cost estimates have increased over the last several months. Last month, the cost was pegged at $56 million.

Commissioners said they are willing to do what's necessary to make the runway extension happen.

"There's a broader equation of regional economic development. It keeps us competitive with those rival communities in the route 81 corridor," Schnebly said.

There are three companies willing to bring high-paying jobs to the airport right now, but only if the runway is extended, he said.

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