State officials put the cost of Route 32 plan at $200 million

October 26, 2003|By Liz F. Kay and Larry Carson | Liz F. Kay and Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

State transportation officials have put a $200 million price tag on widening nine miles of Route 32 to Howard's rural west, reviving hopes that the project, which has lain dormant for nearly a decade, may go forward.

County Executive James N. Robey and members of the state delegation said the work on Route 32, designed to ease congestion on the road where it narrows to two lanes between Route 108 and Interstate 70, will be expensive.

But they agreed that it has to be done.

Robey listed the project third on Howard's list of transportation priorities for state funding for next year, behind improvements to U.S. 1 and U.S. 29.

After a meeting with transportation officials Thursday night in an annual session to discuss local projects, Robey said he wasn't surprised by the high cost and that the unsafe conditions warrant the change.

The hefty cost of the widening project stems from the need to build a service road that would provide consolidated access for homeowners whose driveways link directly to Route 32, State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen said after the meeting.

During the 90-minute meeting at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City, Pedersen said that although land for the expansion has been purchased, not all of the property owners have agreed to give up access rights to the road.

A number of elected and appointed officials who attended the meeting had personal or political interests in the project.

Deborah Izzi, who leads the Citizens' Alliance for Rural Preservation, a group opposed to the project, was not surprised by the high cost of widening the road. "It was $160 million a few years ago," she said.

"That's a lot of money to be spending on a short section of road."

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