City celebrates pace of repaving

Officials call on state to provide up to $70 million more for transportation projects

October 24, 2007|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun reporter

Baltimore City has nearly doubled the number of lane miles it has repaved this construction season, city officials said yesterday as they continued to pressure state government to make more money available for transportation projects.

So far this year, the city's Department of Transportation has resurfaced nearly 101 lane miles and has 57 more lane miles under construction. By comparison, the department completed about 80 miles in 2006, city officials said.

"We've improved more roads in this season than ever before," Mayor Sheila Dixon said at an event in the War Memorial Plaza to celebrate the effort. "This is not PR, this is not spin. ... We made this public goal back in April and we have gone forward."

In addition to benefiting residents who travel on the newly surfaced streets, city officials also hope the increase in road resurfacing will give Baltimore a leg up as it lobbies the General Assembly for an increase in state transportation dollars.

Dixon is calling for a $600 million annual increase in transportation funding statewide, about $200 million more than the proposal on the table. That could translate into about $70 million in additional transportation money for the city, officials said.

Among the projects named as priorities on a poster displayed at yesterday's event were 15 bridges in need of rehabilitation and reconstruction, a $70 million East Baltimore MARC train station and $55 million in improvements to Boston Street.

"Baltimore City's not just the economic center of the greater Baltimore region, but also the economic engine for the entire state of Maryland," said Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, who also co-chairs a city task force on transportation funding.

Fry said the city will be lobbying the state during the coming special session for not just a larger pot of transportation dollars but also to ensure that Baltimore's percentage of highway user revenue - such as motor vehicle registrations - remains consistent.

Baltimore expects to spend about $150 million on road improvements this year - up from about $87 million the year before. Much of that money is borrowed, though some was held over from previous budgets. Officials said about 200 sites were affected by the increased effort this year.

"In every corner of our city, in every neighborhood ... Baltimore streets are now becoming safer and smoother," said Alfred H. Foxx, director of the city's Department of Transportation.

As part of the effort, which the city has dubbed "Operation Orange Cone," a list of projects has been posted on the city's Web site. Some of the longest completed projects in terms of lane miles on that list include Hillen Road from Argonne Drive to Perring Parkway, and York Road between Tunbridge Road and Northern Parkway.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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