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State omits funds for airport extension

January 23, 2002

State omits funds for airport extension



Annapolis

By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Maryland's long-term transportation plan released Tuesday doesn't include construction money to extend Hagerstown Regional Airport's runway.

But state and local officials assured the public that it's still on their radar screen.

"It doesn't mean it's not a high priority. We recognize the airport extension project is one of the very top priorities for the region," Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said.

The five-year plan doesn't make a specific reference to the airport project.

But Sen. Donald F. Munson said he was told that the state plans to spend $197,000 on preliminary engineering for the runway extension in the next budget year, which begins July 1.

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"That's really good news. This is the most important project in the county in my view. This one has the potential to bring a whole lot more revenue to the county and keep us relevant as an airport," said Munson, R-Washington.

It's going to cost an estimated $62 million to lengthen the runway to improve safety and accommodate regional jets.

Most of the money will come from the federal government, although Washington County has asked the state to kick in $9.3 million through 2007.

Airport Manager Carolyn Motz said she's not worried about the gap in the budget. She hadn't expected to see construction money in the budget until next year and the engineering money gets the project started.

"We're headed in the right direction," she said.

An 18-month environmental study is nearly complete and the next step is engineering.

Without a longer runway, Hagerstown Airport could lose its scheduled commercial air service, which would have an economic impact of $50 million a year, Motz has said.

The project also will 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 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.

The state is moving along with several other major transportation projects in Washington County. They include:

- $900,000 from 2003 through 2004 to continue studying the widening of Interstate 81 in Maryland from two lanes to four lanes in each direction.

- $7.8 million from 2003 through 2005 to replace the Md. 34 bridge from Sharpsburg to Shepherdstown, W.Va.

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