Progress on the $100 million motor sports raceway project that is proposed near Martin State Airport in eastern Baltimore County is moving along at a much slower pace than a race car, but it is moving forward.
The latest good news for the track came last week, when Gov. Parris N. Glendening's list of new transportation projects included $2.1 million to build a 3.2-mile extension of White Marsh Boulevard (Route 43) from U.S. 40 to Eastern Boulevard.
"Route 43 is critical to moving masses of people directly from Route 95 to the site without going through local neighborhoods," said Joe Mattioli III, chief of operations for the project being undertaken by the Middle River Racing Association, which is backed by Ed and Missy Berge.
Mattioli sees the inclusion of the road project as "step one." Because it is included in the governor's budget, "designers and engineers can start on the road project immediately," Mattioli said.
In other developments, Alex. Brown Inc. is putting together a group of investors; Mattioli said he hopes the equity/debt package will be in position in the next 60 days. And a wetlands study, done by the private firm of Dennis LaBare, reported that 600 of the 1,000 acres at the site can be developed.
Originally, the best-guess scenario was that only about 500 acres of the parcel, known as the A.V. Williams site, would be usable. The wetlands study means the track now being planned is a one-mile oval instead of a three-quarter-mile short track.
"It really opens up the project," said Mattioli. "It means it will be easier to secure better events, like a possible Indy Car race."
While the track has the support of sixth-district delegates Kenneth Holt and Diane DeCarlo and Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger, it is still being debated in the community.
"I've got people who cringe at the thought of the track and others who can't wait for it to be built," said Philip Edwards, president of the Bowley's Quarters Improvement Association.
The biggest worry, Edwards says, is the traffic the track could generate and the idea that the devotees of racing often show up days in advance and party until the races. Another concern is increased air traffic at Martin State Airport. And still another is business expansion along Eastern Boulevard turning the area into a big entertainment district.
"It's going to be an entertainment zone," Edwards said. The area "is already crowded during the summer months" because of boaters.
Don Wilson, newly elected president of the Wilson Point Community Association, said people in his community are "still up in the air" about the track.
"I don't know anyone who is super negative about the race track," he said. "But there is still a lot of doubt about the extension of the highway and area development there are no guarantees that new business development, including the race track, will employ people from this area."
While area residents sort out their feelings, Mattioli said his next step is to begin securing all the permits necessary to develop the track. He estimates that might take as long as a year. From that point, the project should be 18 to 24 months from completion.
Because of the configuration of the track (a mile oval with a half-mile oval and a road course inside it), the facility will be able to accommodate a variety of motor sports events -- everything from NASCAR's Winston Cup, Grand National, truck, modified and legend series, to International Motorsports Association road racing, to Indy Cars.
There are no guarantees that any sanctioning body will stage a race here, but Mattioli said he has had preliminary discussions with several of them, "and I think once we break ground, we'll be able to firm up events for our schedule."
Pub Date: 1/23/97