State OKs $7 million for improvements to U.S. 1

Road, bridge, sidewalk projects are included

August 08, 2004|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

As cars and trucks rumbled past on U.S. 1 in Laurel, state and local leaders jubilantly announced Friday three new transportation projects totaling $7 million that will give a modest face-lift to parts of the busy traffic corridor.

The new funding is another sign that the push to revitalize parts of U.S. 1 in Prince George's and Howard counties continues to gain momentum, officials said.

For the past several years, officials in both counties have increasingly searched for ways to build upon the commercial - and, in some places industrial - enterprises that have taken root along U.S. 1 in parts of Howard and Prince George's counties, from Elkridge to Laurel.

Years in the planning

"We've been talking about this for years," said state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, a Howard County Republican who attended Friday's announcement. "But if the money is not there, it can't be done."

The new projects include:

$3.5 million for road and sidewalk improvements - such as brick walkways in the historic areas - on a half-mile stretch from Laurel to the Howard County line. Construction would begin in fall next year.

$2.3 million to repair, re-pave, and paint the two-lane bridge over the Patuxent River, which connects Prince George's to Howard County, beginning in spring.

$1.25 million for a joint study project between Howard and the state to identify traffic safety, operational and roadway improvements along a nine-mile stretch of U.S. 1 between Elkridge and Laurel.

For several years, efforts to revitalize U.S. 1 in parts of Howard and Prince George's counties have been constrained partly because of the state's depleted Transportation Trust Fund, officials said.

That situation has been reversed recently after legislators voted to increase vehicle registration fees in the last legislative session, officials said.

The higher fees will generate $157 million yearly, and another state Motor Vehicle Administration miscellaneous fee will add another $20 million, state officials have said.

Money available

With more funds available, the state Transportation Department can now say yes to projects that improve highway safety and "make for better places to live," Robert L. Flanagan, the department's secretary, said at Friday's announcement near the MARC train station in Laurel.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele said the U.S. 1 corridor has been waiting for improvements for years.

"I'm here to say the future is now," Steele said at the meeting.

"We don't have to wait five to 10 years. We're going to be moving forward in the next 12 months to address some of those needs."

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