Glendening unveils new road projects $511 million cost won't raise taxes

January 23, 1996|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced a half-billion dollars in new highway projects yesterday and said the state can build them without increasing the gasoline tax during the next three years.

The new projects include widening the Baltimore Beltway between Interstate 83 and Route 43, improving roads around a proposed Redskins stadium near Landover, and adding lanes to Interstate 95 in Harford County.

Those roads are part of a $5.4 billion administration plan for transportation construction statewide from 1996 through 2001.

The plan -- which includes $511 million in new projects announced yesterday -- avoids a gas tax increase that state planners have contended is needed once every five years.

The governor said there is enough money for the additional roads because of downsizing in the state Transportation Department and a growth in revenues fueled by rising car sales.

Even so, "We have not funded everything we would like to fund," Mr. Glendening said, such as bypasses around St. Michael's and Salisbury on the Eastern Shore.

Some key legislators have said the state may need to raise its 23.5 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax to pay for more roads, but the governor disagreed yesterday.

"I know there has been been talk about the need for an increase among the gasoline and transportation taxes, but I have made it clear we cannot burden our citizens and our businesses with any new taxes," Mr. Glendening said. "We remain committed to not raising any new taxes during this four-year [election] cycle."

With the governor opposed to a gas tax increase, the General Assembly is not likely to propose one, said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., the Prince George's County Democrat.

The governor's plan includes two large, politically noteworthy projects. The first is $48 million in road improvements around the stadium that Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke wants to build in Prince George's County.

The governor has said that the state would eventually have built those roads anyway and that he merely is accelerating the financing for them. Administration officials acknowledge, however, that although the county has been asking for the improvements for some time, the projects only recently were accepted as part of the state's plan.

The plan also includes $42.2 million for Canal Parkway, a 2-mile road in the district of House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., the Cumberland Democrat. The parkway is part of a larger revitalization effort and park project near the C&O Canal. Besides the road, state funds will be spent on replacing a bridge and partially excavating the canal.

In the Baltimore area, the most expensive new item is $11.5 million for engineering and right of way acquisition along the Baltimore Beltway. The project calls for widening to eight lanes the segment between I-83 and Route 43 (Whitemarsh Boulevard).

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III said the project is one of his top two priorities to boost economic development and improve the lives of commuters. "When companies are looking to locate, they're going to look at traffic patterns and gridlock," he said.

The state plans to spend $3 million to acquire the right of way for a parking lot at the Coldspring light rail station in Baltimore. Other projects include:

* $24.9 million to widen I-95 to eight lanes between Routes 24 and 22 in Harford County.

* $5 million for right of way acquisition for the Hampstead bypass in Carroll County.

* $3.4 million for engineering and right of way work for a new interchange at U.S. 29 and Johns Hopkins-Gorman Road in Howard County.

* $1 million for engineering work to widen Route 2 from Route 214 to south of Virginia Avenue in southern Anne Arundel County.

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