The state and the county appear to be moving in opposite directions on building East-West Boulevard.
County officials have decided to pay a developer $125,000 for an empty 1-acre lot in the middle of theproposed East-West Boulevard corridor, saying it would save them money "if and when" the road is built. But yesterday, a State Highway Administration official said that "because of the high degree of uncertainty surrounding this project," a study of the proposed road will bestalled another six months and won't be ready until late summer or early fall of next year.
Both developments signal that responsibility for moving the controversial project forward is shifting from the cash-strapped state to the county.
Director of Administration Adrian Teel labeled the county's move a "logical business decision," regardless of whether the road is built and by whom.
Owner Alvin Anderson had applied for a permit to build a house on the acre of land, one of four he owns at the southwest intersection of Jumpers Hole and West Pasadena roads. That lot is in the heart of the southern option for the proposed 110-foot-wide East-West Boulevard corridor.
If a home were built on the property, it would add between $250,000 and $375,000 to the cost of condemnation, depending on market conditions.
The county wants to leave the land open so as few people as possible would be displaced "ifand when the road is built," Teel said, adding that the zoning office couldn't justify denying the permit without making Anderson an offer to buy the property.
SHA project manager Frank DiSantis said he was never consulted by the county. He also cast doubts on the state'sability to build the estimated $30 million project at a time when the Department of Transportation is threatening to stop work on an estimated 75 major road projects around the state.
"Any county decision to buy property in the right of way was done independently," an irritated DiSantis said. "If someone were to apply to the county for some project that might be in the path (of the proposed road), it shouldbe reviewed with the SHA."
Opponents of the project are "concerned" that the county may be tacitly pushing the project forward, said spokesman Bob O'Leary of the Millersville/Severn Run Federation, an organization that formed in opposition to the proposed 2.9-mile boulevard.
O'Leary said he found the action especially surprising becausecounty officials told his group they had handed responsibility for the project to the state.
"It's interesting that one developer sells his property to the county for a premium price, while 3,000 or 4,000 families down the road are left out of it. We have been told all along that the countyis getting out of the road (business) and giving it to the state," O'Leary said.
"This road was promised by the politicians for the developers years ago, and now that they can't get theroad, the politicians are buying the land from the developers at premium price."
Councilwoman Diane Evans, R-Arnold, who had a pro-East-West Boulevard plank in her election platform, vehemently disagreedwith O'Leary's analysis.
"The voters had a real choice in the matter. They knew I supported the road and my opponent did not," she said. "I went door-to-doorthroughout the area during my campaign, and I can tell you an overwhelming number of people in this corridor favor East-West Boulevard."
Evans was caught by surprise by the news that the state study, originally due out in July 1991, has been delayed again until that fall. But she said she has "absolutely not" given upon the possibility that the state will come out of its fiscal mire and build the road.
But if the state doesn't build the road, she said, she will talk to the county executive and find a way to push it on to the county's agenda.