State and Baltimore County officials have agreed on a "preferred" route for a key road that would connect Interstate 95 to Worldbridge Centre, a proposed trade center and Asian theme park planned for a 1,000-acre tract in Middle River.
While the decision is not final -- a public hearing on four possible routes has yet to be held -- government's preferred option would extend Md. 43 east from Pulaski Highway and connect onto Eastern Boulevard, across from Martin State Airport.
That option is desirable because it puts the new road very near the new MARC train stop in Middle River, said Craig Forrest, a transportation planner for the county.
While the MARC stop is scheduled to open May 1, the Md. 43 project, which is estimated to cost $115 million to complete, is years from being built. Eventually, however, it would be easy for commuters on I-95 to park at the Middle River MARC lot and take the train, Forrest said.
At the moment, the Md. 43 project is frozen in its tracks, awaiting the outcome of proposed zoning regulations the Worldbridge developer says he needs to get funding for the mammoth project.
Worldbridge needs the extension to I-95 to provide access to motorists along the East Coast's main north-south highway, its developers have said.
In other work involving Md. 43, its extension west of I-95 between Parkville and White Marsh Mall is proceeding ahead of schedule, state highway officials said.
The purpose of that $47 million project is so that motorists from Towson and Parkville can travel to White Marsh via the Beltway without having to get on I-95. The job is expected to be completed by November 1992, said Dick Harrison, district engineer for Baltimore County for the State Highway Administration. The work was originally planned to be done by mid-1993.
As for the eastern extension of Md. 43, state highway officials said that will be built one day, regardless of Worldbridge, but they acknowledge that Worldbridge would push the road project more quickly.
"It's not a top priority unless Worldbridge happens," said Del. E. Farrell Maddox, D-Balto. Co., who noted that no new money was available this session anyway.
So far, about $1.5 million has been spent on planning and some engineering work for the road project.
"We've put all new projects on the back burner, because there's no money," Maddox said. "We have trouble funding what's already there."
Lee Carrigan, project manager for the Md. 43 extension, said that under the current plans the road would be extended to Worldbridge Centre first, then later to Eastern Boulevard.
Councilman Vince Gardina, D-5th, who represents the area, said he believes that many people in the community oppose any connection to Eastern Boulevard, fearing the traffic congestion.
A connection to Eastern Boulevard "doesn't do anything for us," said David R. Cahlander, president of the Stevens Road Improvement Association. His community is near where the proposed road would tie into Eastern Boulevard. "It just gives us more people to add to the traffic. The traffic is bad enough already."
Another community leader, however, said his group supports the chosen tie-in to Eastern Boulevard.
"That's the route we want," said John J. Schmidt, vice president of the Bowleys Quarters Improvement Association. The other routes would dump onto Bowleys Quarters Road, he noted.
Gardina, who said he hasn't made up his mind on the road, has called a "town meeting" for residents to voice their concerns about Worldbridge in general and to ask questions.
It's scheduled for May 2 at 7 p.m. at Eastern Vocational-Technical High school. County Executive Roger B. Hayden will be there, as well as Chris Delaporte, the project manager for Worldbridge.