Shortchanged on road funding Howard County: State help is needed to ease traffic through key business corridor.

October 27, 1997

KEY ROADS in the state's bustling Baltimore-Washington corridor lead through Howard County. The county connects the two cities like New Jersey links Philadelphia to New York.

With vital business growth and residential development congesting roads in Howard County, it is important to the county and the state that highways do not become excessively clogged. In recent years, Howard has been one of only a few Maryland counties to share the cost of building state roads.

The state's partnership is needed again, but the Maryland Department of Transportation's capital budget plan contains no construction money for three important county interchanges.

Fortunately, the budget process is in its early stages. County Executive Charles I. Ecker says he is optimistic that the department will "live up to its responsibility" to provide half the $60 million needed to build the interchanges. As state officials move toward a final decision, it also would be useful to consider Howard's position in Maryland's geography and economy.

Howard has created more jobs than any Maryland jurisdiction over the last six years, although it is only the sixth-largest in population. Its economy continues to surge as high-tech companies and small businesses relocate and grow there. Two-thirds of county residents commute to jobs closer to Washington and Baltimore and an increasing number of workers are coming from other jurisdictions to Howard.

Commercial and residential growth have placed more stress on the intersection of Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway in east Columbia. Mr. Ecker made an implicit promise in recent years to build an intersection on the state road with county money. The executive has deserved -- and taken -- plenty of heat for going back on his promise.

But Mr. Ecker has shown a commitment to this interchange and two on U.S. 29 -- one at Johns Hopkins Road and another at Gorman Road. He is providing $30 million, half of what is needed, to build the three interchanges.

The county has been a good partner, helping to pay for improvements to keep traffic moving through one of the state's main business corridors. The county should not have to pull the weight alone.

Pub Date: 10/27/97

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