Different route to financing roadwork Special tax district needed to fund improvements to Route 32.

February 26, 1997

FINANCING ROAD IMPROVEMENTS, particularly those designed to attract large industrial and commercial enterprises, used to be a relatively simple task. Draw up the engineering plans, hold a public hearing and the County Council would add the project to the capital improvements budget.

But with its 2-year-old tax cap, Anne Arundel County no longer has an easy route to finance major road projects with general obligation bonds.

Undeveloped properties along Route 32 between the Howard County line and the National Security Agency near Fort Meade should be among the most attractive commercial and industrial properties in the county. Yet when developers and prospective companies carefully look at sites in this areas, they lose interest because of the lack of direct access to Route 32.

If new entrances and exits were built to prove easier links to Route 32, county officials predict that development and jobs would grow in this area. Restricted by the tax cap, however, county officials can't use the traditional methods to pay for these road improvements.

Legislation is pending before the council to create the "West County Tax Increment District."

This special taxing district would allow county government to issue bonds to finance the roadwork that would improve access to large properties on Route 32, west of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and to remove bottlenecks around NSA. Road improvements will increase the value of these properties. That additional property tax revenue would be set aside to pay back the principal and interest on the bonds. County officials estimate they would need to issue about $27 million in bonds to pay for the road improvements.

Even though there is considerable expense and effort involved in creating this tax district, the council should approve it. A similar district was created to borrow money from the state's Transportation Trust Fund to upgrade Nursery Road near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Improvements there have attracted millions of dollars in investment in hotels and office buildings that might not have been made otherwise. The council should do the same in West County.

Pub Date: 2/26/97

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