Mount Washington residents who got their hopes up this week for a new Interstate 83 exit better prepare for detours ahead.
At their annual meeting Tuesday, community residents were told that city and county officials were working to end a 10-year stalemate over a new exit in Baltimore County along the long stretch of I-83 between Northern Parkway and Ruxton Road.
The residents, still smarting from a recent USF&G Corp. decision to put 2,500 employees in their neighborhood each day, were told by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke that county officials, including Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, were beginning to come around to the idea of the exit. City residents have complained for years about congestion at the Northern Parkway exit to I-83.
"There are a number of elected officials that are supportive of I-83," Mr. Schmoke said Wednesday night. "The politics in the county have changed dramatically."
"Talk to Dutch," the mayor told a reporter afterward.
But yesterday, Mr. Ruppersberger flashed a red light on the mayor's idea. "At this point, there's no money so why address it?" he said. "I'm not in favor of it."
The talks apparently will continue anyway. The city and the county have battled this issue for at least 10 years. The proposed interchange -- the bane of the county residents and the dream of the city residents -- would ease commuter bottlenecks at the Northern Parkway interchange, helping city residents. But the new interchange would dump traffic into county neighborhoods, those residents said.
The project died when county politicians refused to back it in 1985, and calls for the interchange eventually quieted. But the calls have resumed because of USF&G's plans to relocate workers from downtown to its sprawling campus in the northern neck of the community.
The meetings, which are scheduled to last through the summer, include city and county officials, and residents and representatives from USF&G. County officials say they view the meetings as a way to figure out alternative plans to ease traffic coming to USF&G, which straddles the city and county line.
Even if the interchange were built, it would take at least seven years at an estimated cost of about $13 million.
The price tag, says Mr. Ruppersberger, is a huge hindrance. He said the county's priorities are in other road projects.
Charles Graves, director of the city's department of planning and chair of the committee meetings, said he is looking to the state to pay for the project.
But Mr. Ruppersberger said Governor Parris N. Glendening told him that the money was not in the state's budget. Mr. Glendening could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The one thing that the city and county agree on is keeping USF&G in the Baltimore-metropolitan area. The company had threatened to take its headquarters out of the area if it could not relocate workers from downtown to the Mount Washington campus.
The point of the meeting, Mr. Ruppersberger said "is to discuss issues generally . . . . The highest priority is keeping USF&G here."