Carroll eyes state aid for air service to BWI

Other cities around state also considering bids for subsidized flights

June 29, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Carroll County commissioners are weighing the chances of winning state dollars to start an air commuter service that would link Carroll County Regional Airport north of Westminster to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, allowing residents and business executives to skip the long drive to and from Linthicum.

Several communities, including Frederick and Hagerstown, have expressed interest in establishing regularly scheduled flights to BWI. Legislation signed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening last month requires the state to give a handful of regional airports financial assistance to start such service next year.

"It's an exciting opportunity," Bruce F. Mundie, director of the state's Office of Regional Aviation Assistance, told the commissioners yesterday. "We believe this service will benefit the public - they'll be able to get into BWI without battling traffic on the Beltway - and the state economy."

The Maryland Aviation Administration estimates that outlying communities could see a 10-fold increase in the economic impact of their regional airports if they offer commuter service to BWI.

"At this point, we're trying to determine what communities need this service and, of those, which can afford it," Mundie said. "After that, we will be drafting a proposal and meeting with the airlines. "

The governor has set aside about $1 million for the initiative in fiscal 2001, which begins Saturday. Funding could increase to $2 million in each of the next two years.

The commuter service would initially require about $4 million in subsidies, Mundie said. Federal grants, private contributions from businesses that use the service, and incentives offered by local airports would be required to fill the gap in state funding.

Those incentives could include discounted fuel prices, free marketing or low rental charges for maintenance and hangar space, Mundie said. State officials expect the air service to be self-sufficient by 2004, with the cost of a round-trip ticket to BWI set at about $100.

The commissioners are expected to let the state know by July 31 whether Carroll County would like to vie for a commuter air service.

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