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Local projects need a boost to succeed in 2001 assembly

March 23, 2001

Local projects need a boost to succeed in 2001 assembly



With less than a month to go before the end of the Maryland General Assembly session's 2001 session, it looks as if it will take a strong finish for the Washington County delegation to count this year as a success.

In January we said that for this one to go into the win column, three things would have to happen. The University Systems of Maryland's downtown Hagerstown campus would have to be funded. Progress would also have to be made on the widening of Interstate 81 and on the extension of a runway at the Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The campus funding did not seem like a stretch, because Gov. Parris Glendening chose the site himself, after being lobbied by former Frederick mayor Ron Young and ex-Hagerstown mayor Steve Sager.

The $13.2 million project survived the first round of cuts, but was put on "hold" along with another $130.5 million in pojects in case the state's economy goes into a slump.

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Those projects will be reviewed in December, so it will probably be another year before the campus cash is freed up. The only bright note is that $870,000 in asbestos-removal cash is still in the budget for use this fall, an investment the state would lose if the project were axed later.

We urge the delegation, the city council and the commissioners to make a strong plea to keep this project fully funded. Things delayed, like the proposed veterans home here, have a way of getting lost in the shuffle.

Ditto for the runway extension, which wasn't on the state's long-range transportation plan when the session opened in January. And although state transportation officials assured the delegation it was priority earlier this month, they asked lawmakers which project - I-81 or the runway - was more important, suggesting that cash for both would be a long shot.

There may yet be last-minute victory pulled out of what is shaping up as a batch of disappointments. But if by session's end, none of these three projects gets any more backing than they have now, it will be time for delegation members to examine what they're doing wrong.

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