Parkway overhaul target date now 2001 Funding speedup to allow quicker finish of last leg

October 22, 1998|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The decadelong overhaul of Baltimore-Washington Parkway should be finished in three years because of a speedup in federal funding announced yesterday.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said the Federal Highway Administration and the National Park Service will provide funds to finish rebuilding the Route 197 interchange, the remaining section of the project. The announcement was made at the interchange north of Greenbelt.

Slater, who was joined by members of the Maryland congressional delegation and state officials, said the agencies' funding should save time and money on the reconstruction, which began in the late 1970s.

Only $11.25 million had been authorized by Congress to redo the interchange in the transportation funding bill signed in June by President Clinton. Of that, $4 million was appropriated for the next fiscal year in the spending bill approved this week by Congress.

Because the overall project is expected to cost $27 million, highway engineers had planned to spread the work over six years and to seek additional funds to finish it. With the Clinton administration providing all the money, the project can be shortened by three to four years and the overall cost reduced by $2 million, officials said.

"This is great news for the thousands of commuters who depend on the B-W Parkway every day," said 5th District Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, who has pressed for funding to complete the project. With Hoyer at the announcement were Maryland Democratic Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes.

The 18.5-mile parkway, which is overseen by the park service, was designed to connect four major federal facilities between Washington and Baltimore -- Fort Meade, the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. Traffic has increased from 20,000 vehicles daily when it opened in 1954 to more than 80,000 today.

Reconstruction started in the late 1970s, but extensive rehabilitation began in 1989. Work on the Route 197 interchange is slated to begin next year.

Traffic will be detoured around the interchange so the highway bridges over the parkway can be rebuilt, officials said. Construction vehicles will use Route 197.

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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