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Md. officials: State cuts won't affect Washington County roads projects

October 03, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The state's decision to defer $1.1 billion in transportation projects over the next six years won't affect Washington County, state transportation officials told local officials Thursday.

The county's only major project in the state's six-year plan - expansion of the U.S. 40 and Edgewood Drive intersection - remains safe, transportation leaders said.

State funding for that project was kept in the state's six-year transportation plan, which has been pared down to account for drops in state revenues related to high gas prices and a slow economy.

Even though nearly half of the $1.1 billion reduction was absorbed by the Maryland State Highway Administration, SHA Administrator Neil J. Pedersen said the intersection project was not one of the dozens of projects delayed.

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"The SHA's share of the money remains secure," Pedersen told local officials at the meeting.

The state has budgeted $5.6 million for the $12.3 million project, according to state documents.

The remaining cost will be shared by the county and City of Hagerstown.

Pedersen said engineering and land acquisition for the project are almost finished, but legal issues with the low bidder have stalled progress.

Pedersen would not elaborate on the legal problems and said he is not sure when they will be resolved.

He said a project to replace I-70 bridges over Black Rock Road is continuing.

The westbound bridge has been demolished and workers are pouring footers for the new bridge, Pedersen said.

Black Rock Road beneath the bridge likely will be closed until January, Pedersen said.

The meeting, which is scheduled annually to discuss the state's transportation plans, centered on the state's financial troubles.

Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said projected revenues from vehicle sales and titling taxes are both down more than $400 million.

Fuel taxes and registration fees each are down more than $100 million.

As a result, the yearly budgeted increase for state transportation projects has fallen from $450 million to $265 million.

Of that, $250 million will be spent to protect existing projects.

"As you can see, that doesn't leave us a lot for new projects," Porcari said.

Washington County officials did not complain about the lack of new projects but instead thanked Porcari and Pedersen for leaving the U.S. 40 and Edgewood Drive funding intact.

"I believe we all recognize the dilemma the state is in," Washington County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth II said.

Kroboth did, however, ask state officials to keep several local projects in mind when the economy rebounds.

He said the widening and extension of Eastern Boulevard as well as widening Interstates 70 and 81 to three lanes are priority, big-ticket items that the county will need help from the state to complete.

Highway projects

The following minor state transportation projects in Washington County have started or are scheduled to begin this fiscal year:

o I-81 from West Virginia line to Halfway Boulevard, resurfacing.

o U.S. 11 from Bower Avenue to Noland Drive, resurfacing.

o Md. 65 at Md. 63, lower vertical crest.

o Mapleville Road at San Mar Road, geometric improvements.

o I-70 at I-68, cross-over correction.

o I-70 at Md. 56, Md. 68 and Md. 66, construct deceleration lanes at emergency crossovers.

o I-81 at I-70, acceleration and deceleration lanes, drainage improvements.

o I-70 at U.S. 40, landscaping.

o Md. 58 from Broadfording Road to Woodpoint Avenue, retrofit sidewalks.

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