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Turning to the governor to make county wishes come true

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz recently delivered his "wish list" of transportation improvements he'd like to see happen to the Hogan administration in Annapolis. It will be up to the governor to respond.

Much of what Kamenetz sought for Baltimore County makes eminent sense.

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He pointed out that the Baltimore metropolitan region is the fifth-most congested in the country. He warned that growing traffic gridlock in portions of the county "is inhibiting the growth of our local economy."

Kamenetz noted that experts are predicting "traffic congestion will only get worse in the next 20 years."

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"We need a comprehensive transit system," he said.

The county executive wants the state to come up with funds for a sound alternative to the now-discarded Red Line rapid rail project that would have linked Woodlawn on the west to downtown Baltimore and then all the way to the city-county line on the east side of town.

He is suggesting a "rail or rapid bus transit link" from Woodlawn — home to the Social Security Administration headquarters and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — to an expanded Lexington Market transit hub. At the market, the new link would connect with the Metro and Light Rail systems that extend to Owings Mills and Hunt Valley, respectively.

The county executive contends such a link would represent "a major opportunity to increase transit accessibility to a high volume of commuters in search of alternative transportation options."

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In the Owings Mills area, Kamenetz asked the state to fund "the long-planned interchange on Northwest Expressway (I-795) at Dolfield Boulevard." The idea is to alleviate traffic congestion as new developments start to emerge nearby — the burgeoning Metro Center, the revamped Owings Mills Mall and the Wegmans-dominated Foundry Row retail and office center.

Kamenetz said the county has already spent $1.5 million for planning and land acquisition for that interchange. It also has completed $6 million in improvements to Dolfield Boulevard.

Major employers in the area have voiced strong support for a new interchange on I-795, including T. Rowe Price, CareFirst and the Owings Mills Corporate Roundtable.

The problem is that Hogan may not have much transportation money to throw into local initiatives.

The plunge in gasoline prices means less tax revenue. More electric and dual-fuel cars mean a loss of gas-tax funds, too.

There is hope, though, that some items on the county executive's list will find favor.

For instance, there is pressure on the state to help redevelop the old Sparrows Point steel plant by making infrastructure improvements. The 3,100 acres there are ripe for industrial projects that take advantage of Sparrows Point's deep-water port channel, two interstate highways and two railroad lines.

The state-owned Port of Baltimore wants to buy a coal pier there, along with surrounding acreage. It would be money well spent, giving the port room for growth as increased cargo from a widened Panama Canal starts arriving in a few years.

Additionally, Kamenetz wants to give a facelift to a key portion of Liberty Road. The county proposes landscaping a center lane of the heavily traveled commercial roadway. This "greening project" would beautify an area with a high concentration of residential communities. The project also would enhance pedestrian safety.

What he's seeking is similar to the boulevard "greening" the county completed along Greenspring Avenue between Old Court Road and Green Summit Road near the entrance to the retail, office and residential complex at Greenspring Quarry.

That's a long list of wishes. In this case, only Hogan can make those wishes come true.

Barry Rascovar, of Reisterstown, writes a blog at www.politicalmaryland.com, and can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com.

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