Proposed Route 43 extension debated

Businesses, residents clash over plans for $60 million highway

June 17, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

While businesses urged the State Highway Administration last night to accelerate plans for a $60 million highway that would connect White Marsh with Middle River, residents wanted it stopped.

The three-mile extension of Route 43 is intended to boost the sagging economic fortunes of the Middle River area by connecting Eastern Avenue with Pulaski Highway and opening about 2,000 acres of industrially zoned land to development, according to state and Baltimore County officials.

Business groups told SHA officials at a public hearing in Essex last night that they favor the highway.

"We would like to see this project move forward quickly and to see this highway built," said Frank Brush, executive director of the Essex-Middle River Chamber of Commerce.

Brush told about 200 people at Kenwood High School that the highway would ease traffic congestion and create jobs.

"Our area is in desperate need to retain existing jobs and create new jobs," Brush said.

But environmentalists and residents who live along the proposed routes of the highway said they oppose it.

"The employment opportunities the county claims are going to come from this highway are completely bogus," said Linda Felts, a Bird River Road resident whose home lies in the path of one of the proposed routes of the highway.

Felts said she wants state highway officials to consider a no-build alternative.

"Please be human about this issue when you're making this decision. Money is not everything," she said to loud applause.

Heather Murphy, SHA project manager, said the agency will consider last night's comments when selecting one of five proposed routes.

Factors for consideration

Maps showing the five proposed routes were set up for public inspection outside the auditorium.

The SHA will weigh residents' concerns along with the costs of each route and the impact on wetlands, forests, noise levels and several other factors, she said.

Murphy said the highway will handle between 25,000 and 45,000 vehicles a day and ease congestion on nearby roads.

It will be a partial-access highway, which means that, like White Marsh Boulevard, it will intersect with major county roads but have no access from driveways, she said.

Federal go-ahead

Federal Highway Administration approval for the road is not expected until early next year.

Construction is not likely to begin until 2005 and could take two to three years to complete, Murphy said.

Written comments may be submitted to Murphy's office until July 26, at Mail Stop C-301, P.O. Box 717, Baltimore 21202-0717.

Pub Date: 6/17/99

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