Mount Airy lobbies state official to widen Route 27 in town, beyond

Flanagan outlines plans for transportation funding

October 22, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Several Mount Airy town officials lobbied State Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan yesterday after a Chamber of Commerce luncheon for a widening of Route 27.

Route 27 has two lanes heading north off Interstate 70, but narrows to one lane at the park-and-ride lot, said Councilman Peter R. Helt, who heads the town's streets and roads committee.

"It backs up for miles," Helt said. "We'd like to at least take it to two lanes from 70 to the intersection at Twin Arch Road - at least - and hopefully beyond."

Council President John P. Medve said he would like the road widened to Westminster, but would settle for having it widened through town.

Main Street (Route 808) could then be taken over by the town of Mount Airy, Medve said.

Neil J. Pedersen, the state highway administrator, told the mayor and council members to submit their request for the road work soon, because the department will be evaluating requests and making decisions about new projects in the spring.

"There's a very long line," Pedersen said. But "it helps the community if they are able to take over roads that shouldn't be on the state highway system."

Mayor James S. Holt said probably more than half of Mount Airy commuters head toward Washington. Most take Route 27 to Interstate 270.

Holt, a structural engineer working on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, introduced Flanagan to members of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce.

Flanagan outlined some of the state's plans to improve its highways at the luncheon, then headed to Frederick, where he was to formally announce a new $90 million interchange on I-70.

Last year, his first in office, Flanagan said he had "the unpleasant experience of telling counties there was no money in the transportation program, and the state couldn't afford any new projects."

This year, with $238 million dedicated for transportation, he said, the state wants to deal with traffic that is building up in Carroll, Howard and Frederick counties, which are "growing, vibrant, but suffering from increasing congestion."

Congestion in the Baltimore City area - which is growing faster than the Washington area - costs residents about $480 a year in vehicle wear and tear, gasoline and lost productivity, he said. While support for public transportation is good, he said 85 percent to 90 percent of commuters prefer using their own vehicles.

Flanagan said the $74 million funding is for a bypass in Hampstead as well as plans for improvements to Route 32 in Howard County and Route 124 in Montgomery County.

Flanagan also rattled off a series of big-ticket projects, some of which would need to be funded by bonds and tolls or other creative measures such as surcharges for drunken drivers, he said.

One of the projects that would need its own revenue source is the Intercounty Connector, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s "number one transportation priority," Flanagan said. The east-west highway between Montgomery and Prince George's counties would cost "a couple billion," he said, but would bring $5 billion to $7 billion in economic benefits to the area in the next 20 years.

Other possible "mega-projects" he mentioned include adding a lane in each direction on the Capital Beltway for about $3 billion; adding a lane each way on I-270 for about $2 billion; and adding a lane each way on the Baltimore Beltway, for about $1 billion.

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