Fee Increases Expected To Get Road Projects Rolling

U.s. 29 Interchange Tops County's Priorities

June 23, 1991|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff writer

An expected decision by the General Assembly to raise state vehicle fees would jump-start four stalled county road projects, including anoverpass for Route 103 that would improve traffic flow on U.S. 29, astate transportation department spokeswoman said.

Legislators will vote June 26 on 60 fee increases that would generate more than $40 million a year for the state Transportation Trust Fund.

A sharp drop in fee revenues, mainly on new car purchases, put most new state transportation projects on hold in December.

Legislators demanded that transportation officials identify projects that would benefit from fee increases, prompting a list of more than 120 projects costing $450 million in state and federal matching funds.

Rebecca Reid, spokeswoman for the transportation department, said the list includes these Howard County projects:

* Construction of an interchange at U.S. 29 and Route 103-- also serving as the beginning of the decades-delayed Route 100 project -- $25 million

* Widening U.S. 40 from U.S. 29 to the Normandy Shopping Center -- $673,000

* Resurfacing Route 144 from Route 32 to Triadelphia Road -- $492,000

* Intersection improvements at Route 175 and Thunder Hill Road -- $171,000

The interchange was the cheaper of two construction projects that County Executive Charles I. Ecker had told state transportation officials he would like to see started once money became available.

The other project, which was not on the list, was the $27 millionrelocation of Route 32 in Clarksville. The project calls for a four-lane highway from Cedar Lane to the center of Clarksville that would serve as the main road through River Hill, now being planned as Columbia's 10th and last village.

To strengthen his hand in funding negotiations, Ecker put $11 million in the county capital budget to helppay for one of the two projects.

Ecker's assistant, Beverly Wilhide, said the executive was pleased that the U.S. 29 project was on the list.

"It was identified as one of the most congested intersections in the state," she said.

James M. Irvin, county Public Works director, praised the inclusion of the U.S. 40 widening.

"It is probably the highest accident rate area in the county," he said. "And probably one of the most congested places in the county too, so its a very important need."

Reid said the intersection at Route 175 and Thunder Hill Road was on the state's "critical" list, and eligible for$148,000 in federal funds.

Reid cautioned that the fee increase "is not going to bring the department out of its dire financial situation. We're still seeking additional revenue in order to have a sufficient transportation plan for the next four to five years."

A 7-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax increase is the next step, she said. The General Assembly defeated a similar proposal this spring.

State Highway Administration engineers, currently working on resurfacing projectson U.S. 40 in Ellicott City and Route 32 in Savage, say they have been constrained by tight budgets.

At the beginning of June, they said they were unsure whether they would be able to complete the two resurfacing projects.

But last week, engineers said both would be completed later this week.

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