Lack of funding halts plan to widen Mountain Road Jimeno asks state to reconsider project

July 05, 1992|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,Staff Writer

The on-again, off-again plans to widen Mountain Road east of the Route 100 intersection are off again, state highway officials say, a victim of the state's nagging financial problems.

And State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno is frustrated.

"If it drops to the bottom of the list again, it may never be funded," he complained. "Meanwhile, they're funding all these other projects."

Mr. Jimeno voted for a gas tax increase during the 1987 General Assembly session after William K. Hellmann, then secretary of transportation, assured him part of the money would pay to widen the busy Mountain Road to five lanes from Route 100 to Maryland Avenue.

But the current secretary, O. James Lighthizer, deferred the $16 million project along with 74 others after the 1991 session, angering Mr. Jimeno, who voted against another gas tax increase in the last session.

Although the project remains in the state's capital budget, it has been buried near the bottom of the priority list.

"The money was dedicated in 1987," Mr. Jimeno said. "They made a commitment. We have a capacity problem on Mountain Road, and it's going to get worse, even without any more development on the peninsula."

Liz Ziemski, a state highways spokesman, conceded yesterday the project is necessary, but said the money is not available.

"We didn't get the money we thought we were going to get," she explained, "and a lot of projects were deferred."

State transportation officials lobbied hard during the 1992 General Assembly session for a 5-cent gas tax increase designed to pump $125 million into highway construction funds in its first year.

But highway projects got only 3 1/2 cents of that increase, Ms. Ziemski said. The rest is going to the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the city's Metro, and the general transportation fund.

"Its simply a matter of finances," she said. "Unfortunately, this project didn't get funding."

The Mountain Road project envisions a new intersection with a traffic light at Route 100, a five-lane road to Maryland Avenue, and left-turn lanes from Maryland to Ventnor avenues.

Highway officials already have polled nearby residents, made changes to accommodate some complaints, purchased rights of way and done nearly half the design work, a point that angers Mr. Jimeno, who said he hopes to salvage at least part of the project.

"We've spent too much time on this already, so I'm asking them to take another look at this," he said. "Even a scaled-back project would be better."

In a June 17 letter to Mr. Lighthizer, the senator urged the department to "live up to its commitment and reconsider the funding of this project, even if it were to be scaled down to a more affordable cost."

He suggested, for example, adding left-turn lanes at intersections on the peninsula.

Frank Halges, president of the Greater Pasadena Council, suggested even less work.

"Our main concern is with the intersection of Route 100 and Mountain Road," he said. "I think most people are more concerned about that than anything else."

But the problem, he acknowledged, is "there's no money."

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