BALTIMORE COUNTY needs the extension of White Marsh Boulevard (Route 43) to Eastern Boulevard -- regardless of its impact on a controversial proposed motor raceway. The raceway must be dealt with separately, on its own merits. The merits of the extension are without question.
A significant portion of County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger's east side revival plan rests on this proposed 3.2-mile piece of road, which would make it easy to get from Interstate 95 to east side marinas and to land zoned for commercial and manufacturing uses.
These tracts have long remained vacant because they are too remote; creating access to I-95 would turn them into a hotter commodity. Over time, the return in jobs, state and local taxes and stimulation of the east side economy will more than pay for the cost of the project, which is more than $70 million.
As important as the amount of economic development is the location of that development -- in a targeted growth area that fits perfectly with Gov. Parris N. Glendening's statewide "Smart Growth" plan. To curb sprawl and protect rural land, the governor is wisely encouraging development in urban areas and older neighborhoods by providing state money for roads and other projects there. County officials, who have been waiting for years to see movement on the White Marsh extension, can thank Mr. Glendening for seeing the value of moving it up the priority list.
Of course, the governor's action -- providing some engineering money -- does not guarantee the road will be built. The construction money is not there now and will not be needed until 2001. It is likely that opponents of the proposed raceway will try to block funding of the extension, without which it will be impossible for any big entertainment project to handle the traffic.
If, indeed, the raceway deserves to be fought -- and the idea is too undeveloped to know if it does -- fighting the extension of Route 43 would be the wrong way to go about it.
Is the raceway far enough from residences? Would it harm the environment? Is the venture economically sound? Do residents support it? Those concerned about the raceway should direct their energies toward these matters, not toward a road that -- track or no track -- will benefit Baltimore County.
Pub Date: 2/04/97