WASHINGTON – While bulldozers rumbled in front of them, Maryland congressmen patted themselves on the back Wednesday for securing the funds to finish the Baltimore-Washington Parkway construction under budget and ahead of schedule.
“We have been waiting for this announcement for a long time,” said Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore, who was flanked by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Baltimore, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mitchellville. “The three of us have been wondering if we would be long gone when this construction was completed.”
Funding for the Maryland Route 197 interchange, the last step in the 12-year project to upgrade the parkway, was one of several state projects in the budget bill passed by Congress this week. Other Maryland projects include:
* $8 million to upgrade U.S. Route 220 in Western Maryland. The three-year project, scheduled to start in 1999, will extend too-short merge lanes that have been blamed for a high number of accidents. The “development of a safe, accessible and efficient highway system in Western Maryland is crucial” to the region, said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick.
* $1 million for a preliminary study on the feasibility of building light rail to ease traffic congestion on Maryland Route 5 through Southern Maryland. “We are looking for long-range solutions and this is part of a larger planning effort,” said David Chapin, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation.
* $50.3 million to finish construction of the Green Line, the last subway section of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
* $68 million to begin reconstruction of Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River, a $1.8 billion project.
A spokesman for the American Automobile Association praised the road funding.
“We have inadequate road capacity,” said Lon Anderson of AAA Potomac. “Every time we get more money to end construction, that is great news.”
The reconstruction of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway has been underway since 1986 and was not scheduled to be completed until 2004 at the earliest, Hoyer said.
“Now, it will be completed by 2001,” he said.
Sarbanes, Mikulski and Hoyer accompanied Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater in the self- congratulatory gesture.
“More than $150 million has been spent on the 18.5-mile federal portion of the parkway,” said Slater. “Today, we commit the final $27 million for completion of the Route 197 interchange.”
“If we had not gotten the money, we would have been cranky,” said Mikulski.