A yellow caution flag is out for the proposed international speedway in Middle River.
Chris Steuart has dropped out of a partnership with fellow developer Edward H. Berge Jr., raising new questions about the future of the project proposed for a site near Martin State Airport.
"Chris thought we weren't getting support from the politicians; plus he has two little children, and he has to earn a living since this is basically a nonpaying job," Mr. Berge said.
Parties familiar with the relationship said the partnership dissolved after the men could not forge a formal agreement after negotiating for more than a year.
Mr. Berge said Friday that unpaid bills from the venture, which had accumulated during nearly four months, were paid after Mr. Steuart resigned.
Mr. Steuart did not respond to telephone calls.
Though Mr. Berge said the leadership change has not altered his commitment to build a two-mile, world-class track on a 1,000-acre tract known as the A. V. Williams property, many hurdles remain, he said -- starting with finding a new partner.
And, Mr. Berge said, state officials have not made a commitment on an extension of Route 43 from Pulaski Highway to Eastern Boulevard -- a necessity to bring racegoers from Interstate 95 and other western points. Currently, access to the property is by a one-lane road off Eastern Avenue.
The road extension -- which could cost as much as $70 million -- would be a cornerstone for the revitalization of eastern Baltimore County, officials said.
"We are still in favor of the track, but it needs the new road," said Edward Ziegenfuss, executive director of the Essex-Middle River Chamber of Commerce.
"There is no movement," he said, "The state wants a viable project in place before the road is built. The racetrack people say they need Route 43 before they build the raceway. I would call that an impasse."
County officials are watching while the Middle River Racing Association Inc. works toward an opening date in the next century.
"When that happens, the county executive will then sit down with the speedway developers," said Michael H. Davis, spokesman for County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III. "At this point, it appears to be wishful thinking."
Mr. Berge said he will go to Daytona Beach early next year to try to land racing dates from the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. (NASCAR), the organization that sanctions major stock car races. He said he will attempt to win an event in the Busch Grand National, the second-tier of racing on the international circuit.
Mr. Berge's chances of getting top NASCAR events face another hurdle: proximity to tracks in Dover, DE, and Richmond, VA, both of which conduct Winston Cup and Busch Grand National races.
He contends the new track could generate $350 million in revenue for the economically depressed area, 60 percent of it from out of state.