The unglamorous alley Baltimore County: Infrastructure in older neighborhoods now getting deserved attention.

June 12, 1996

REBUILDING ALLEYS ranks right up there with fixing sewer mains as one of the most un-glitzy chores local government has to perform, which may explain why the Baltimore County administrations that reigned during the cash-rich '80s didn't do it.

They were more interested in investing in "growth areas." Two years ago, then-County Executive Roger B. Hayden began at long last to focus attention on the county's older communities, where basic infrastructure has been rotting away. Current Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger promptly picked up the ball. He walked the alleys and streets, saw the horrendous shape they were in and made their repair a priority.

This spring, the Ruppersberger administration rebuilt 29 alleys; 119 more are in various stages of construction or planning. And this is just a start. A review of the county's 1,339 alleys ranked 464 either "terrible" or "poor." Dundalk, which has twice the number of back alleys as any other council district, also has many streets that need to be repaved and the utilities beneath them replaced. Its councilman, Louis L. DePazzo, says his phone is ringing off the hook from callers wanting to know when their alley or street will be done.

Residents must bear in mind that alley reconstruction can't occur overnight. For one thing, the county will not rebuild an alley unless half of the affected property owners sign a petition agreeing to contribute $50 a year for 15 years toward the cost. Residents interested in starting a petition or finding out if one has been started should call the county public works department at 887-3363.

The other reason alley reconstruction and other infrastructure improvements can't occur all at once is that such projects are extremely expensive. The county needs to borrow about $35 million through the sale of bonds for alley, road and bridge repair and storm drain replacement included in Mr. Ruppersberger's capital program through fiscal year 1999. This bond issue must be approved by voters this November. Residents who are tired of busting an axle pulling in and out of their own driveways should make a point of voting for the bond question titled "Public Works" when they go to the polls five months from now.

Pub Date: 6/12/96

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