Baltimore County's roads stand to receive $351 million in state- and federally funded improvements during the next six years -- but local officials are asking for more.
With a $200 million pot of transportation money up for grabs, Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger renewed his push yesterday for the state to contribute $50 million toward the construction of a long-planned extension of Route 43 in White Marsh.
"This project opens up almost 700 acres for new commercial development," Ruppersberger told state transportation secretary John D. Porcari and his top aides, in town for their annual meeting on local road and transit projects. "As you know, the county's match of $12 million for construction is available, and now is the time for the state to come through with its share."
Porcari would not commit to additional local spending within Maryland's $7.3 billion transportation plan, which reaches to 2005. He said he has five more counties to visit before he makes his final recommendations to Gov. Parris N. Glendening in January. The state legislature must then approve the plan during its forthcoming session.
The transportation plan received a $2.1 billion boost in September, when Glendening announced that gasoline taxes and other revenues were higher than expected. Of the extra money, $700 million has been assigned to highway projects, and $200 million remains available.
Staking a claim on the bounty, Ruppersberger used yesterday's meeting to request that several other projects be speeded up, among them improvements to the Baltimore Beltway interchanges at Reisterstown Road and Liberty Road, and the relocation of Paper Mill Road near Hunt Valley Mall.
But not everyone agreed.
State Delegate A. Wade Kach, a Cockeysville Republican, said he would work to kill $1.26 million in planning and engineering funds for the Paper Mill Road project if planners don't eliminate a proposed path connecting the Hunt Valley light rail station with a nearby rail trail popular with cyclists and hikers.
Police statistics show that property crime in the area is higher since the light rail system opened in 1994, Kach said. Crime would increase even more with better access to the trail, he contends.
"If crime in the county has gone down, and crime in the Lutherville-Timonium area has gone up, you make the connection," Kach said. "There is a connection."
Ruppersberger questioned whether the statistics were correctly interpreted, and called the trail-connection debate "kind of like a mosquito floating around" the larger issue of improved access and continued economic development in Hunt Valley.
State officials noted that each light rail train is staffed by a Mass Transit Administration police officer, and that each station is patrolled by an off-duty county police officer.
The Route 43 extension proposal also attracted some criticism. Area resident Tom Lehner questioned why "we are going to destroy 1,000 acres of woods and wetlands" to create warehouses and relatively low-paying jobs.
Ruppersberger disagreed, saying if Lehner examined the county's economic development plan for high-paying jobs, "it will alleviate some of your concerns."
Other Baltimore County projects in the six-year plan include: $10 million for the widening of Philadelphia Road between Route 43 and Campbell Boulevard, added in September when Glendening announced the extra money.
$13 million for noise barriers along portions of Interstate 95 north of Metropolitan Boulevard to north of Southwestern Boulevard, and on the Beltway from Joppa Road to Thornton Road.
$34.7 million to study the widening of the Beltway to eight lanes along two sections covering about 17 miles.
$34.6 million to add a lane to the outer loop of the Beltway between Frederick Avenue and U.S. 1.