Bill could offer help on BWI din, traffic

Proposed committee of neighbors would study livability issue

March 13, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

When Leo Harnen moved to Ferndale 35 years ago, he knew his big neighbor just to the east was Baltimore-Washington International Airport. And he expected the inconveniences - the noise and traffic.

Still, for about as long as the airport has been growing, he's wanted a little something in return, maybe sidewalks along the main roads so people can walk without being in the path of traffic.

"I think we should get some restitution," said Harnen, president of the Ferndale Improvement Association.

Senate Bill 276 might hold solutions for Harnen and others who live near one of the country's fastest-growing airports. Sponsored by Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., a Glen Burnie Democrat, the bill would create a residents committee that would evaluate BWI's effect on livability beyond the 2-mile airport noise zone.

The committee would propose transportation-related projects in the area that would be funded by a dollar for each aircraft landing and taking off at the airport during the most recent year. Last year, BWI tallied 316,703 takeoffs and landings, and the bill would require the state's fiscal 2002 budget to include that funding in the state transportation trust fund.

The bill passed Friday out of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee after the Finance Committee had unanimously approved it. It is scheduled to go to the Senate floor this week. If the Senate and House of Delegates approve the bill and it becomes law, it would take effect Oct. 1.

"That certainly is very encouraging, and we'll see where it goes from here," DeGrange said. "But I feel pretty confident that it's going to go through both bodies and be sent to the governor."

The money could be used for a number of projects approved by John D. Porcari, secretary of the Department of Transportation, such as parks or trails in the affected communities, which include Glen Burnie, Ferndale, Linthicum and Severn.

"This is just a starting point," DeGrange said. "This is not to appease communities because of the airport. It's to give them something, a bonus, for living with this day in and day out."

The 11-member committee, which would be called the Citizens Committee for the Enhancement of Communities Surrounding BWI, would consist of residents recommended by DeGrange and appointed by Porcari. DeGrange said he envisions that the 11 people on the BWI Neighbors Committee, a liaison between area residents and the airport, be the same people on the residents committee.

Melvin Kelly, vice chairman of the BWI Neighbors Committee, said that would be an ideal situation because of the group's history and knowledge of the airport's effect on the neighborhood.

"The neighbors committee has been in existence for more than 20 years. If anyone is familiar with the impact that the airport has had, it's the neighbors committee," he said. "A new group of people would have to become familiar with all the things that have gone on in the past 20 years before they could even function."

Harnen said he thinks that the money could be put toward sidewalks on, for example, a main street such as Ferndale Road. He would also like to talk to community service organizations about beautification projects, which he said are needed because the airport is on one end of the neighborhood, and light rail tracks go through it.

Mike Phennicie, president of the Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, said hundreds of employees from the chamber's members live in the affected areas, and the legislation could benefit the businesses by improving staff morale.

"The people in the area that have lived here are inconvenienced for various things - noise pollution, traffic - they experience this every day," he said. "So the small amount that's going to be required in the fund, that's a small price."

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