Cycling trail project gets green light, others a red State plan would delay road, handicapped-access projects.

September 18, 1991|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Evening Sun Staff DHC XBB

Score a victory for cyclists but a loss for some train riders, motorists and handicapped people.

While delaying various highway, rail and handicapped access projects for lack of money, the Maryland Department of Transportation plans to spend $2.7 million to build a hiking and bicycling trail in northern Anne Arundel County.

A draft blueprint of state transportation projects for the next six .. years calls for building a trail around Baltimore-Washington International Airport but delaying almost $1.7 billion worth of work on 66 major projects.

Due to dwindling revenues and the recession, the department decided to slam the brakes on various state-funded projects so it could pay for others it deemed more critical.

The list of funded and stalled projects appears in the newly released Consolidated Transportation Program for highway, mass transit, port and airport spending.

After soliciting local input, the department will send the program to Gov. William Donald Schaefer and then the General Assembly for final action.

While it would be shelling out $2.7 million for the BWI trail, the department would delay spending:

* $800,000 needed to make two Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) train stations accessible to handicapped patrons.

* $3.6 million to build platforms that would improve access for the handicapped and elderly at the Odenton MARC station, along with $1.8 million to construct additional parking there.

* $3.2 million for an interchange at Md. 97 and Kate Wagner Road in Carroll County.

* $2.8 million for a parking expansion at the West Baltimore, Halethorpe and Seabrook stations on the MARC Penn Line, even though the "need for more parking is one of the highest priorities," the draft report said.

State legislators would have to approve an increase in the the gasoline tax of 6 1/2 cents a gallon in order to raise the money needed to jump-start the many stalled projects, Deputy Transportation Secretary Stephen G. Zentz said yesterday.

The department deferred new roads and other projects that would expand the state's transportation network, according to the draft report.

Safety-related and maintenance projects, however, would proceed. Those include road resurfacings, the replacement of old buses and the rehabilitation of bridges and rail facilities.

The BWI hiker/biker trail, however, does not readily fit into the general criteria used for funding projects.

If built, the new trail would connect Patapsco State Park with the Baltimore & Annapolis trail, the development of which Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer helped oversee as Anne Arundel County executive.

State Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Anne Arundel, sponsored a resolution earlier this year that called for a study of the feasibility of such a trail. The trail would be one way that BWI officials could demonstrate their good will toward airport neighbors who feel aggrieved by airplane noise, Wagner said.

Besides, the trail comes cheap -- "$3 million won't buy 12 red lights," Wagner said.

Zentz said he did not know why the trail was funded but the $800,000 handicapped access project at two MARC stations was not.

State Mass Transit Administration officials could not make the handicapped access project a top priority this year because they do not know yet how much it will ultimately cost, said MTA chief Ronald J. Hartman.

The state probably will have to find money for that project in coming months or years in order to comply with a new federal law requiring key stations to be equipped for disabled riders, Hartman said. "We've got some time to work this out."

MARC riders who hunt for a parking space at the West Baltimore, Halethorpe, Odenton and Seabrook stations also would have to wait years for relief, since officials recommended delaying those projects too.

Parking spaces became extremely scarce there since service expanded and ridership more than doubled during the past few years, the report said.

The department also proposed delaying work on more than 40 highway projects because of lack of money. Deferred projects cost from $300,000 to $247.9 million.

They include the planned widening of Belair Road from Interstate 695 to north of Silver Spring Road in Baltimore County and the extension of Md. 100 from Interstate 97 in Anne Arundel County to Interstate 95 in Howard County.

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