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Drivers will pay more to register vehicles

April 14, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Annapolis - Maryland drivers will pay sharply higher vehicle registration fees under legislation signed Tuesday by Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich to pay for road improvements, including a project to help relieve congestion on Dual Highway.

The legislation will increase the cost of two-year registrations for passenger cars from $81 to $128 beginning July 1. Owners of large pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles will pay $180 every two years, up from $108.

That increase, combined with a variety of miscellaneous Motor Vehicle Administration fee increases, will raise an estimated $165 million per year for transportation.

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The Dual Highway work is "at the top of our list," Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan said after the bill-signing ceremony.

Flanagan said the state is considering adding at least one other Washington County highway project to the state's long-term transportation plan but he would not give specifics.

"We do this in conjunction with those legislators who were courageous enough to support Governor Ehrlich's funding package," he said.

Six out of eight Washington County lawmakers voted for the bill, which passed the House on March 16 and the Senate on Friday. Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington and Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, voted against it.

The projected $165 million per year in new revenue will cover a little more than half of the $300 million recommended by a state Transportation Task Force in December.

Earlier this session, the Maryland General Assembly rejected Ehrlich's proposal to raise more money through increased drunken driving penalties.

But the state, anticipating more money from gasoline and titling taxes, plans to boost transportation spending by $237 million a year.

In Washington County, the state has committed to $8 million for the Hagerstown Regional Airport runway extension.

The state also is partnering with Hagerstown and Washington County to improve failing intersections on Dual Highway.

A recent study showed that the major artery won't be able to handle traffic in four years without major intersection improvements and an extra lane in each direction.

Local officials also have been lobbying for the widening of I-81 from four lanes to six lanes.

The transportation bill was one of 64 pieces of legislation that Ehrlich signed into law Tuesday.

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