Ruppersberger scores Hayden on roads

November 02, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

A photograph of the collapsed Buckingham Road bridge in yesterday's editions was incorrectly displayed over an article about political issues surrounding Baltimore County's program to repair rural roads damaged last winter. The Buckingham Road bridge, which was damaged by a school bus in 1992, has not been involved in the political controversy.

The Sun regrets the errors.

An ambitious road-resurfacing program that had Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden crowing last week is nothing more than a cynical "last-minute election ploy," according to his Democratic opponent.

Mr. Hayden issued a news release Oct. 24 that praised the "most massive countywide road-resurfacing job in history."

The county is resurfacing 400 miles of roads, instead of the usual 50 miles to 75 miles a year. Work has stopped for the winter.


County Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III of Cockeysville, who is trying to win Mr. Hayden's job in Tuesday's election, said at least two parts of the $10.5 million effort were bogus.

He cited a June 23 letter to the county from the Baltimore County Highway Contractors Association Inc., which argues that slurry seal, a thin layer of blacktop being applied to 51 miles of lightly traveled residential streets, is a waste of money and time because it will last only three to five years.

The group of 22 local contractors also complained that they were shut out of the $722,000 slurry job because the county used a state contract instead of bidding anew for the project. A Virginia company is doing the work. Robert F. Webbort, president of the group, contended in the letter that slurry seal eventually will cost 30 percent more than traditional smooth-seal resurfacing, which is more expensive to apply but typically lasts 15 years.

Mr. Ruppersberger also criticized the application of $2.2 million worth of so-called chip seal to 210 miles of lightly traveled rural roads. He called the technique "fraught with problems" and "inferior."

County Public Works Director Thomas H. Hamer rejected the criticism. He noted that the complaining contractors don't do slurry-seal work and said they're just upset about not getting the jobs.

"I don't blame them for that," he said. He said his department recommended extensive use of chip and slurry seal to extend the life of many streets that haven't been resurfaced for 20 years or more. The lower cost of slurry and chip seal allowed the county to cover many more roads now, before they deteriorate further, he said.

"This is a preventive measure to help preserve the life of the roads," he said, adding that many other jurisdictions use the processes.

He said Mr. Hayden had nothing to do with selecting the processes the department used. "I'd have to disagree with Dutch that the administration had any part in directing us to do the work," he said.

Mr. Ruppersberger, who as a council member voted for the money for the resurfacing, was critical of the decisions. "The shame is that, because of Mr. Hayden's last-minute rush to pave our roads, not all county roads will be getting the customary asphalt paving," he said.

"What we are witnessing is Mr. Hayden's attempt to pave his way to another term," Mr. Ruppersberger added Friday. "Everything is happening in the last several months."

In his news release, Mr. Hayden said the severe weather last winter created an emergency situation that required a dramatic response.

"Anyone who has driven down our rural roads since last winter knows we had a situation that absolutely couldn't be ignored," he said.

Mr. Hayden's spokesman said the executive declined to comment on Mr. Ruppersberger's criticisms.

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