County Executive Charles I. Ecker's proposed capital budget containsonly $8.76 million of the $10 million requested to help the state build two major highway projects -- an intersection at U.S. 29 and St. John's Lane that is part of the Route 100 project, and relocation of Route 32 from Cedar Lane to Route 108 in Clarksville.
Whatever money the county contributes, the projects will hinge on about $50 million in contributions from a depleted state transportation fund that the General Assembly has so far failed to revive.
Both projects, plus land purchases for a new commuter rail station in Dorsey and six road maintenance and improvement projects in the county, are on hold because of a drop in state Transportation Trust Fund revenue.
The revenue, which comes from gasoline tax receipts and Motor Vehicle Administration fees, is predicted to drop by $79 million next year.
Transportation department officials have said thatwithout a new source of money, such as a tax or fee increase, $58 million in county transportation projects scheduled to start in the coming fiscal year will have to be put off at least one year.
That includes maintenance projects such as resurfacing parts of Route 29 andRoute 108, improvements such as the widening of U.S. 40 and a new commuter rail station in Dorsey.
The county already has set aside $6million for the Route 100 project, which the state has promised to pay back after the road opens. Because of the current budget crunch, however, county officials do not expect the state to pay back the additional $8.76 million.
But the county's contribution could provide leverage for the state to go forward with the projects.
Ecker testified three weeks ago in favor of an ill-fated proposal by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to raise the state gasoline tax. He plans to meet in the coming weeks with Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizerto discuss the projects, but the date for that meeting has not been set.
The measure was killed by the House Ways and Means Committee March 19 while a similar measure was rejected by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee last Thursday.
The Senate on Tuesday did narrowly pass a bill to raise an array of state motor vehicle fees that would generate $42 million
for the transportation fund.
But legislators did not expected the bill to survive in the House.
Ecker said Monday he didn't know what to make of the legislature's failure to add to the transportation fund.
"I'm just waiting to see what happens down there. . . . Anything that would increase money in the transportation fund would be an encouragement."