Flush with cash, Baltimore County won state funding in this year's legislative session for projects that are expected to change the county's economic landscape over the next several years.
As a result, county officials can begin buying land in July for a $55 million highway that will connect White Marsh with Middle River, a project they say will create hundreds of jobs on the east side.
They also are accepting proposals from developers on ways to create a town center in Owings Mills, possibly with a main street and a college campus. The town center is intended to make the booming corridor more attractive to residents and merchants.
Both projects -- though years away from completion -- were highlights of a package of proposals endorsed and funded by the General Assembly during the session that ended this week.
After heated debate, the county also won approval to condemn hundreds of properties as part of a redevelopment project in the Essex-Middle River area.
County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger said yesterday that the county received a record amount of money from Annapolis this year, including $43 million for the three-mile extension of White Marsh Boulevard and $54 million for other highway projects.
Ruppersberger said the four-lane White Marsh extension will connect thousands of acres of industrially zoned land in the Middle River corridor to the rest of the county. He has committed $12 million in county funds to the project and plans to begin construction in the summer of 2002. "We'll see the benefits of that project for years to come," Ruppersberger said.
He also noted a commitment from Gov. Parris N. Glendening to pay half of the cost of developing a town center in Owings Mills at a 47-acre commuter parking lot for the Metro station.
The site, owned by the Mass Transit Administration, is a 10-mile train ride from downtown Baltimore and lies in the center of one of the fastest-growing county communities, Ruppersberger said. "If you think of what Owings Mills has to offer, the possibilities are amazing," he said.
State and county officials have asked developers to submit proposals for the site by April 24.
MTA and county officials have discussed developing the site for years, with most plans focused on the need for a 1-acre town square and a main street, a library, a college campus, a hotel and offices, apartments and retail shops.
Robert L. Hannon, director of the county Department of Economic Development, said any proposal will include a parking garage to replace the lots used by commuters. It might be five to 10 years before the town center is completed, he said.
Hannon and Ruppersberger said winning the governor's endorsement was a key step.
"You need to have the state on board to achieve something of this magnitude," Ruppersberger said.
The county executive said the General Assembly also approved $26 million for school construction projects and $11 million for neighborhood renewal projects ranging from new recreation centers to revitalizing commercial corridors.
"The legislative session was very good to Baltimore County this year," he said.
Funding for neighborhood projects included:
$3 million to revitalize the Essex-Middle River waterfront.
$1 million to build Police Athletic League centers at Reisterstown Elementary School and Mars Estates Elementary in Essex.
$900,000 to construct a soccer center at the North Point Village Shopping Center in Dundalk.
$250,000 to refurbish Todd's Inheritance, an historic house on the North Point peninsula.