ANNAPOLIS – A House committee’s plan to spend $217 billion on transportation over the next six years includes $2.5 billion for Maryland projects — but not the one state officials really wanted.
The House version of the Building Efficient Surface Transportation and Equity Act of 1997 does not include funds to replace the ailing Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.
“We are disappointed that the House has not acknowledged the federal responsibility for the project,” said Chuck Brown, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation.
A Senate version of the bill that passed last week had about the same amount of money for Maryland, but included $900 million for the Wilson Bridge.
While they were disappointed with the funding for the Wilson Bridge — which will cost an estimated $1.8 billion to replace — state officials were generally happy with their slice of the federal pie.
“Maryland fared well,” said Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R- Kennedyville. The House bill was passed 69-0 Tuesday by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and should go to the full House early next week.
Among the “high-priority” Maryland road projects in the House version of the bill are:
* Construction of a ramp from Columbia Park Road to eastbound U.S. Route 50 in Prince George’s County.
* Improvements to Maryland Route 210 from the Capital Beltway to Route 228 in Charles County.
* Construction of a U.S. Route 29 interchange at Randolph Road in Montgomery County.
* A $9 million reconstruction of the Baltimore Beltway from Wilkens Avenue to south of Frederick Road.
* The $15 million first phase of a new interchange at U.S. Route 340 and Interstates 70 and 270 in Frederick.
* An Interstate 81 interchange at Halfway Boulevard near Hagerstown.
* Another $44 million for Appalachian Regional Commission road projects in Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties.
* A $24 million upgrade of Route 113 in Worcester County.
The bill also includes $18.5 million over the next two years for state buses and mass transit facilities.
“So far, this is good news for Maryland,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick. “And hopefully at the end … there will also be good news for Maryland.”
“It’s certainly a step in the right direction,” Brown said. “We’re pleased they passed the bill.”
Differences between the House and Senate versions of the highway spending bill will have to be worked out in a conference committee. Gilchrest said he is confident that a conference committee would grant money for the Wilson Bridge.
In the meantime, Gov. Parris Glendening will continue to push see that replacement of the Wilson Bridge is “fully federally funded,” said his spokesman, Ray Feldmann.
“We are pleased the Senate recognized their responsibility to fund a portion of the (Wilson Bridge) replacement project because it is a federally funded bridge,” Brown said.
But even the Senate’s $900 million allotment falls short of the $1.8 billion needed to replace the bridge.
“The fact remains that $900 million is not enough to fund a $1.8 billion project,” Brown said.