The State Highway Administration unveiled yesterday a $23.7 million plan to ease traffic jams and improve safety on a 2 1/2 -mile stretch of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Anne Arundel County.
The project would add one lane in each direction of the parkway between Interstates 695 and 195 -- a heavily traveled section near Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Arundel Mills mall. It would also add a new ramp connecting northbound Route 170 to westbound I-195, near the airport.
Work is scheduled to begin in 2007 and be finished in the fall of 2009. When finished, the stretch would have six lanes.
"This road is a terrible bottleneck in the mornings," said Erin Henson, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation. "By widening it, we're going to make things much better for commuters."
The project is part of a $237 million transportation bill that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signed in April to pay for road and transit projects across the state.
State Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., an Anne Arundel County Democrat, said the project will provide long-overdue relief for the more than 92,000 motorists who travel on the parkway every day.
"If you come out here at rush hour, you'll find this part of the road backed up for miles," said DeGrange. "It's a pretty bad situation, which is why this project is extremely important for this area."
In addition to alleviating congestion, the project is aimed at bolstering economic development off the parkway in Anne Arundel County -- a fast-growing area that is home to Arundel Mills (the state's largest shopping mall), the airport and the electronics division of Northrop Grumman Corp., the California-based defense company.
Linda Greene, executive director of the BWI Business Partnership, said the project comes at a critical time, with more than 152,000 motorists expected to travel the parkway daily by 2030.
"As more and more businesses come in, it's getting worse," Greene said. "You have to improve things before it gets to the point where you can't move -- and it's getting to that point."
When completed, the project should also improve access to the airport, which draws about 19 million patrons a year.
"There's nothing worse than hitting a bottleneck when you're on your way to catch a flight," Green said.
In a related matter yesterday, the highway administration also announced a $2.2 million study of another congested stretch of the parkway: the 3.2 miles between I-195 and Route 100.
The study will look at widening that section; adding an interchange along the parkway at Hanover Road; and improving that road between the CSX Railroad in Howard County and Aviation Boulevard (Route 170) in Anne Arundel County.