WASHINGTON – Gov. Parris Glendening told the state’s congressional delegation that major state road projects would have to be delayed if the state has to pay to replace the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
“The state of Maryland cannot pick up the cost, the state of Virginia cannot pick up the cost, and we are not going to pick up the cost” of the $1.8 billion project, Glendening said Tuesday during his annual meeting with the state’s members of Congress.
Delegation members were given a list of 29 state projects across Maryland that could be deferred by reduced federal funding for a Wilson Bridge replacement, which Glendening said is needed now.
President Clinton’s proposed fiscal 1999 budget allocates $400 million toward replacement of the bridge, the lone federally owned bridge in the nation’s interstate highway system.
The Senate has proposed spending $900 million for the Wilson Bridge, but the House has not included any funds for the project in its version of the budget, Glendening said.
The governor dismissed the idea of the state charging tolls to pay for the bridge project, saying that would lead to the biggest traffic jams on the East Coast.
“This is not just a bridge between Maryland and Virginia. This is in many ways an East Coast Main Street,” Glendening said.
Replacement of the aging bridge would take a minimum of seven years, Glendening said. That is the same number of years it is estimated that the bridge will be able to continue handling its current traffic capacity.
“If we have to start restricting cars on that bridge that’s going to be too late. You can’t turn back,” he said after Tuesday’s meeting. “If we don’t get the money this year, it’s going to be a real problem.”
Aside from the Wilson Bridge funding, however, Glendening said that Clinton’s proposed budget fit well with the state’s needs.
“There really is a congruence of goals and priorities between the national level and the state of Maryland,” he said.
In particular, the governor praised the president’s proposal to provide money for teachers and new school construction with any proceeds from a national settlement of a lawsuit against tobacco companies.
Glendening estimated that the president’s proposal to build new schools would net the state an extra $300 million over the next two years. That money, if approved, would augment the $222 million that the governor has asked the General Assembly to allocate this year for school construction and renovation projects.
The 90-minute meeting was also attended by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, members of the governor’s Cabinet and several of his close aides.
Delegation members and Glendening spent a good deal of the meeting praising one another for their work in bringing about the state’s booming economy and its declining crime rates and welfare rolls.
Even the governor’s controversial plan to prevent future outbreaks of pfiesteria in the state’s waterways drew protest from only one legislator.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, complained about the stipulation in the governor’s plan that would fine farmers if who failed to control the run-off of nutrients that are believed to trigger pfiesteria outbreaks.
“There’s no farmer that I know who wants any of his nutrients in the bay,” Bartlett said. “If we are going to spend any resources on this, it has to be on how to help farmers control nutrient run-off.”
Glendening said that an excess of chicken manure was causing farmers to spread it on their fields merely to get rid of it. But Bartlett, a research scientist who holds at least 20 patents, suggested that innovation, rather than prohibition, was the answer to that problem.
“(Chicken manure) is a very valuable resource,” he said. “It’s high in nutrients, and the challenge is to turn that liability into an asset.”