State Budget Woes Freeze County Road Construction


January 27, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

More than $25 million in state highway projects in Harford County have been put on hold due to the state's financial distress.

State Highway Administration district engineers delivered the news Thursday to Harford's seven General Assembly members at the delegation's weekly meeting in Annapolis.

SHA engineers said the construction freeze affects Harford as well as highway projects across the state and was imposed in December tocurb department spending.

The county's five delegates and two state senators are concerned that delays in projects planned for this year might postpone future projects, including improvements to PerrymanRoad (Route 159) planned for 1993.

The delegates worry about delays in the Perryman Road project because Clorox Co. plans to open a distribution and bleach production plant in Perryman. The company will need improved roads to the site for business traffic.

The legislators view Clorox's plans as important to the county's economic development.

Richard Harrison, an SHA district engineer, told the delegation Thursday, "We're going ahead with planning as if things will get better, but we're in desperate straits as far as funding."

However, he said, the SHA is trying to obtain federal money for some projects in an effort to keep to the schedule for improvements to state roads this year.

If federal money is obtained, state highway administrators could seek bids immediately on the projects now on hold.

Until then, said Philip Humbertson, the special projects engineer for Baltimore and Harford counties who accompanied Harrison to the Harford delegation meeting, "all projects not yet open to bids are on hold."

Some of the major state road projects in Harford on the "hold" list include:

* $19.5 million to upgrade Route 24 from a two-lane road to a four-lane highway between Interstate 95 and U.S. 40.

* $1 million to build a weigh station on U.S. 1 near Conowingo.

* $200,000 to remove and replace exterior girders from the

bridge on Route 7 over Bynum Run.

* $40,000 to landscape U.S. 40 from Route 7 to Ostego Street.

* $1 million for improvements to Route 147 at Route 152.

* $70,000 for improvements to Route 146 at Hess Road.

State road projects in the county already under construction will be completed, Harrison said.

News of the freeze dismayed the county's legislative delegation last week at its weekly meeting.

The chairwoman of the Harford delegation to the General Assembly, Delegate Rosemary Hatem Bonsack, D-34, said, "We didn't know about the freeze until today.

"We're very concerned about the improvements to Perryman Road because it's going to be well-used."

Perryman Road improvements have been planned for the 1992-1993 fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 1992, to June 30, 1993.

In the delegation meeting last week, Sen. William H. Amoss, D-35, told Harrison firmly: "I think we need to have plans for this run forward regardless of where funding stands.

"Some things, sure, you have to accept there's no money. But some things are very important to the county's growth."

Harrison assured Amoss that the Perryman Road improvements, which would include widening the road to add shoulders, is a top priority for SHA.

Harrison said he did not expect delays on planned road projects to be lengthy.Future projects, such as Perryman Road, probably won't be affected by the freeze on this year's planned road projects, he added.

Harrison said that some state highway projects in Harford that have been put on hold -- about $3.5 million worth -- could begin to move forward if the SHA receives federal funding.

Projects being reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration to receive federal highway dollarsinclude:

* $800,000 for intersection improvements to Route 7 at Abingdon Road.

* $600,000 for intersection improvements to Route 146 at Route 152.

* $2.1 million to resurface and add safety improvements to U.S. 1 north of Route 543 to Forge Hill Road.

State highway projects already under construction in Harford that will not be affected by the freeze on road projects include:

* A new signal at Business U.S. 1 and Kelly Avenue at Bel Air Town Center. This improvement is being paid for by the developer.

* Bridge replacement at Route 7 over Winters Run, which is under construction.

* Intersection improvements to U.S. 40 at Route 152. This construction was approved to begin in the spring.

* Paving and safety improvements on Route 543 from Goats Hill Road, which will be completed in the fall.

*A new signal and roadway at Route 136 at Route 543, which is under construction.

Harrison declined to give legislators a specific timeframe as to when road projects that are frozen might be able to moveforward.

"I think if I gave you a time frame, I'd be lying," saidHarrison.

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