Project aims to improve highway near Fort Meade

State officials have set aside $1.7 million to devise a plan by January to widen Route 175


News from around the Baltimore region

August 17, 2005|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

A top state transportation official said yesterday that Maryland is moving ahead with plans to improve Route 175 near Fort Meade, the Army post that is expected to gain thousands of jobs over the coming years.

This month, Maryland received $12.5 million to widen Route 175 from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to Route 170, near the planned Odenton Town Center. The money was included in a $286 billion transportation bill approved by Congress.

With a federal commission reviewing a Pentagon plan that would significantly expand the western Anne Arundel County installation, state and local leaders held a news conference yesterday to stress the importance of widening Route 175 beyond the current four lanes.

State highway officials have set aside $1.7 million to devise a plan by January, Assistant Transportation Secretary James F. Ports Jr. said yesterday.

Although officials had few specifics about the size and scope of the proposed project, they spoke of improving Route 175 as an important first step toward serving a booming commercial and residential area.

As part of an agreement to serve Fort Meade's increasing security needs, the post will receive a portion of the federal money to build a 30-foot-high noise wall. In exchange, the Army will give up an 80-foot right-of-away along its perimeter to accommodate the widening.

Planners at the Army post have sought to boost security in preparation of growing intelligence operations at the National Security Agency, which is based at Fort Meade.

Ports said he didn't know how many lanes would be added to Route 175, although the previous post commander, Col. John W. Ives, said in February that he expected the highway to run three lanes in each direction.

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens identified Route 175 as the county's top transportation priority two years ago, in anticipation that intelligence operations would expand at Fort Meade.

With the Pentagon seeking to move 5,400 defense workers to the installation within the next seven years - and the NSA hiring another 7,500 intelligence workers by 2009 - officials said the highway funding comes at an opportune time.

"NSA and Fort Meade are two of our nation's most important facilities associated with the war on terrorism and homeland security," said Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate. "They need the infrastructure in place to carry out their mission."

Before his retirement in June, Ives signed off on a three-decade master to manage growth in and around Fort Meade, including unfunded proposals to expand nearby Route 198 and extend the Washington Metro system's Green Line from Greenbelt to the area.

"The regional master plan is becoming reality, said Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy, Meade's current commander.

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