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Road projects to get cash

Official announces transportation funding

Official announces transportation funding

October 13, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's six-year transportation budget includes money for two major projects planned for Washington County - improvements to the busy intersection of U.S. 40 and Edgewood Drive and the proposed widening of Interstate 81.

The money is part of the $116 million the county will receive from the state for transportation projects in fiscal years 2007 to 2012, Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan said Thursday.

Flanagan announced the news during a meeting with the Washington County Commissioners and local members of the Maryland Delegation to the General Assembly.

Of the $116 million, $80 million is in highway user revenues, which the county is allowed to use for local road projects of its choice, said Jack Cahalan, public affairs director for the Maryland Department of Transportation.

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The state's total six-year draft Consolidated Transportation Program is $13 billion.

The state budget includes about $6 million for the U.S. 40/Edgewood Drive project, 50 percent of the project's total cost. The county and the City of Hagerstown will pay the remaining 50 percent. It is anticipated that construction will begin in spring 2008, Flanagan said.

The state money for the project wasn't a surprise, because officials announced the partnership over the summer.

Flanagan said the project is expected to cost about $12 million.

The project will add a third through lane in each direction on U.S. 40, extend existing left- and right-turn lanes on U.S. 40 and widen Edgewood Drive to create two left-turn lanes, one through lane and one through/right-shared lane in each direction, the county has said.

Wide curb lanes will be created for bicyclists and sidewalks built for pedestrians, according to the state budget.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook told Flanagan the project was the county's top priority and is tied to plans to build a hospital off Robinwood Drive.

"We want to make sure this is completed before the hospital opens," Snook said.

The state transportation budget also includes $267,000 in fiscal year 2007 and $75,000 in fiscal year 2008 for the planning of the proposed I-81 widening.

Flanagan said after the meeting he has discouraged staff members from proposing tolls on the highway as a solution to pay for the improvements because of the opposition voiced by local business and elected officials. He stressed, however, that the project was expensive at a cost of more than $500 million.

I-81 stretches 12 miles in Maryland from West Virginia to Pennsylvania.

The state plans to cooperate with local officials on a "workable plan," he said.

"We are very interested in moving the project along," Flanagan said.

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