Budget Woes Force State To Delay Route 24 Expansion

No Relief Seen Despite Heavy Congestion

September 29, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

Motorists could wait years before they get relief from traffic congestion on heavily traveled Route 24 between Interstate 95 and Edgewood.

The Route 24 expansion plan, expected to cost $22.2 million, is one of three major road projects in Harford County that the state Department of Transportation is postponing because of lagging revenues.

The project, which was supposed to start next year, would have transformed a 2 1/2-mile stretch of the two-lane road into a four-lane divided highway, similar to the portion of Route 24 that runs betweenI-95 and U.S. 1 in Bel Air.

The project will be delayed indefinitely, state officials said. The number of vehicles using the highway is expected to increase from 18,000 daily in 1990 to 41,000 daily by 2015.

Maryland Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer told Harford county administrators at a meeting Sept. 19 that the state had no choice but to postpone the project, due to dwindling revenues and the recession.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, County Councilmembers, state delegates and some citizens attended the meeting withLighthizer and other transportation administrators.

Lighthizer has scheduled similar meetings throughout Maryland to review the State Report on Transportation, which outlines highway projects and other transportation programs to be worked on between 1992 and 1997. The plan must be approved by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the General Assembly.

With a capital improvement budget expected to decline from$650 million this year to $450 million in 1992, the department will focus on maintaining existing roads rather than building new ones, Lighthizer said.

"We don't have a program for (building new roads),"Lighthizer said. That's gone. But it's not the end of the world."

State administrators plan to delay 66 projects costing $1.7 billion across Maryland, including three projects in Harford totaling $39.5 million. The delayed Harford projects include:

* Expanding Route 24, which also would include a new interchange at U.S. 40.

* Reconstructing the U.S. 1 bypass and business route into a multilane highwaybetween Route 24 in Bel Air south to Route 152 near Benson. The state was to start acquiring land for the $2.5 million project.

* Widening Route 22 from Shamrock Road in Bel Air east to Route 543. The 2 1/2-mile project, scheduled to start in 1993, was to cost $14.8 million.

A related project -- building a Route 22 bypass around Churchville -- also has been deferred.

County administrators, however, are debating whether to ask the state to kill the bypass altogether because of concerns that the highway will harm the historical and agricultural character of Churchville.

Meanwhile, other projects are still on the state schedule, but few will be built within the next two years, according to the transportation report.

These projects include: U.S. 1 bypass at Hickory; reconstruction of Route 152 between U.S. 1 and the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground; a relocation ofRoute 155 in Havre de Grace; and a new Darlington Road bridge over Deer Creek.

The only Harford projects expected to start within the next two years, the report says, are a new Philadelphia Road bridge over the CSX Rail line, improvements to six intersections and repavingRocks Road in Pylesville.

"You're going to see few road improvements in Harford County," Rehrmann said after the meeting. "That's the bottom line."

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