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Senator discusses roads

County Commissioners brief Mikulski on projects

County Commissioners brief Mikulski on projects

September 14, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN - In preparation for their first meeting with U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski on Thursday, the Washington County Commissioners took some advice from one of their predecessors.

"Greg Snook told me, 'When Mikulski comes, make sure you bring her some raisin bread,' so that's what we did," said County Commissioner James F. Kercheval, referring to the former county commissioner who made it a habit to greet Mikulski every year with a loaf of her favorite bread.

Mikulski, D-Md., whose father owned a bakery in East Baltimore, seemed to appreciate the gesture.

"I do love raisin bread, and it's even the traditional kind with sugar on the top," Mikulski said.

Mikulski, D-Md., comes to Washington County every year to meet with the county commissioners.

She said the annual meetings are a good way to set priorities for federal funding on local projects.

"These are issues we have talked about before," Mikulski said after the meeting. "But it's an excellent chance to see what's happening in the county and where the federal government can help."

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Much of the meeting was spent discussing local and regional road projects, some of which Kercheval said are in dire need of federal assistance.

He said the county has $2 billion worth of projects planned over the next 30 years.

"That's a number we can't crack without federal funds," Kercheval said.

County officials said the projects most in need of federal assistance are plans to widen Interstates 81 and 70 to three lanes.

Washington County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth said the I-81 widening project will require replacing the I-81 bridge between Maryland and West Virginia, which is owned by Maryland. The replacement is expected to cost $200 million.

Mikulski noted that the U.S. Senate just passed a bill that included $1 billion for bridge replacement. She said the county might be able to draw as much as $50 million of that money for the I-81 bridge, and promised she would talk about the matter with Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Officials also briefed Mikulski on the Hagerstown Regional Airport's runway extension project, the county's emergency communications system upgrade and plans to expand Washington County Free Library's central branch.

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