Road work delayed by state

Transportation chief says Maryland needs new revenue sources

`Underinvested in highways'

$10.5 billion in projects unfunded until 2010

October 12, 2003|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Stressing the need to find money to fix Maryland's ailing highways, state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan outlined Friday the roadway projects in Harford County that will remain stalled until the state can find additional funding sources.

Among the projects for which construction money has not been earmarked is the often-discussed Perryman access road from Route 159 to U.S. 40 and reconstructing the Interstate 95 and Route 24 interchange.

The meeting in Bel Air was the transportation secretary's 10th stop on a tour across Maryland to address the state's transportation needs as officials outlined unfunded projects until 2010 that total $10.5 billion.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appointed a Transportation Task Force to make recommendations on how the state can fund its transportation needs.

"We are underinvested in highways," Flanagan told members of the Harford County Council and the state delegation. "This year, I'm emphasizing what's not funded and what we need to do to replenish the transportation trust fund."

Because the money generated by the recently announced toll increase at the Fort McHenry and Harbor tunnels and three other state roads will be used to relieve congestion and improve I-95, the state must find additional revenue for other vital projects in Harford County and elsewhere, Flanagan said.

In Harford County, a project to widen Route 24 from Route 7 to Route 924 and reconstruct the interchange of I-95 and Route 24 could cost as much as $200 million, Flanagan said.

Hurdles

So far, only preliminary engineering and an environmental impact study have been completed, and no money has been earmarked for engineering.

Other Harford County projects without funding include resurfacing U.S. 40 from Joppa Road to Route 7 and reconstructing the interchange at U.S. 40 at Route 715.

"You may have projects that are in planning that will not go to engineering, and projects in engineering that have no money for construction," Flanagan said.

Division in funding

Flanagan also stressed that any new transportation revenue will fund local projects, instead of the proposed Intercounty Connector in the Maryland suburbs of Washington.

The ICC, as it is known, is the Ehrlich administration's top transportation priority.

Last month, Flanagan said the governor's administration is considering a plan in which motorists who use the roadway would pay a third of the highway's construction through tolls. The plan also would rely heavily on bonds.

"We're not asking for legislative action to fund the ICC," Flanagan said. "We're asking for legislative action to [find] money for local projects."

One unpopular recommendation that the governor's task force may make in late fall could be to raise the gasoline tax.

After the meeting, Flanagan said that solution is not the governor's favorite measure.

Del. Barry Glassman, a District 35A Republican who represents rural areas of Harford County, said he would not support any increase in the gasoline tax. Glassman said it would be better to fund mass transit projects and maintenance through other sources, instead from the gasoline tax and user-fee revenues.

"My constituents are right - why should we pay for an increase in gas tax" when the money is going to improvements in other counties besides Harford County, Glassman said.

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