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Harford largely left out of governor's proposal to boost spending on roads, bridges

Harford largely left out of governor's proposal to boost spending on roads, bridges
Harford County appeared to come up short in Gov. Larry Hogan's announcement Thursday of a $1.97 billion funding commitment for highways and bridges construction and repair. Above, road work along Route 22 in Aberdeen in May. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

Although Harford County appeared to come up short in Gov. Larry Hogan's announcement Thursday of a $1.97 billion funding commitment for highways and bridges construction and repair, one local legislator hailed the governor's announcement as a victory for road projects across Maryland in need of funding.

"He's trying to fix up the infrastructure that [former Gov. Martin] O'Malley let fall apart in the last eight years," State Sen. Wayne Norman, who represents northern Harford and western Cecil counties, said.

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Norman attended Hogan's announcement, and he said that in order to fund the road projects, the governor cut funding for the proposed Red Line light rail service across Baltimore and curtailed additional state funding for the Purple Line extension of the Washington, D.C., Metro in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

He called the announcement "a good day for Harford County," as Hogan is supporting funding for ongoing projects such as improvements to Route 40 near Aberdeen Proving Ground and the intersection of Route 22 and Schucks Road near Harford Community College's Bel Air campus.

According to Hogan's announcement, the priority projects, which will get under way by 2018, include $1.35 billion in new projects going to construction and $625 million in preserved projects that were already in the state's transportation plan.

The $1.35 billion in new projects includes $845 million for major projects and $500 million to fix bridges and improve roads.

Not one of the major new projects listed by Hogan, which are scattered around the state, is in Harford County, where the Republican received 77 percent of the vote in the 2014 general election.

Of the so-called preserved projects, the main one in Harford is a new phase for the reconstruction of the key Route 40/715 intersection leading to Aberdeen Proving Ground that received a major upgrade during the administration of Hogan's predecessor, Martin O'Malley, although planning for the project dates to the administration of Gov. Robert Ehrlich from 2003-07.

Improvement of the intersection became a state priority because of the federal base realignment process, known as BRAC, that brought thousands of federal and contractor jobs to APG.

"Harford County has done very well in getting a lot of its road projects done," Del. Rick Impallaria said.

Impallaria, who represents western Harford and eastern Baltimore counties, noted the state had supported past road projects in Harford, including BRAC-related road improvements.

"You can't always get greedy and expect to be on top of the list," he said.

The Aberdeen work, due to begin this fall, includes providing three through lanes on Route 40 in both directions to the intersection with Route 7, as well as widening the intersection of Routes 7 and 159. The project is estimated to cost $20 million.

"This project will improve access to Aberdeen Proving Ground, which is a vital component needed to accommodate the increase in employment resulting from BRAC," the project description released Thursday reads. "These intersection improvements will also enhance traffic safety, capacity and operations."

The state is also in the process of upgrading several intersections along Route 22 in Aberdeen between I-95 and the APG employee and contractor gate, a project that also involves widening parts of the highway.

The BRAC process technically ended in 2011, and since then there has been concern locally and at the state level that the number of APG jobs is likely to be reduced as part of a shrinking national defense budget.

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None of the other projects highlighted by the governor's office is in Harford.

"Today, I'm delivering on my promise to providenearly $2 billion in funding to our highways and bridges across the state," Hogan said in a statement. "This investment not only will move long-awaited highway projects into construction, so that Maryland families and businesses will benefit from safer, smoother roads, but also it will address every single structurally deficient bridge in the state. Building, maintaining and fixing Maryland's roads and bridges is a top priority of our administration."

According to Hogan's announcement, the $845 million in newly funded top priority projects were identified by local and state elected officials in their county priority letters presented annually to the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The $195 million to repair 26 bridges will be combined with $830.7 million in existing state funds to fix the current list of 70 state-owned structurally deficient bridges and maintain existing bridges, according to Hogan's announcement.

Impallaria said he spoke to former Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Hogan's director of intergovernmental affairs, about road projects in Harford that need support, such as improvements to Route 22 between Bel Air and Aberdeen to get drivers through traffic lights faster.

Impallaria said the "next priority" for Harford is to resolve traffic issues affecting I-95, Route 22 and the various feeder roads, such as Route 543, to those major highways.

Sen. J.B. Jennings, of Joppa, said representatives of Hogan's office contacted him last week about transportation projects in his district, which straddles Baltimore and Harford counties.

Jennings suggested improvements to roads in his district as well as other parts of Harford, such as Route 22 around HCC, the Route 543 interchange with I-95 in Belcamp and the intersection of Route 152 and Old Joppa Road.

"I am going to work with the county executive to try to bring those issues to the governor's attention and work to get the funding to fix them," Jennings said.

Norman said he would like to see more new transportation projects in the region, such as an extension of the MARC commuter rail from Perryville into Delaware, which is under consideration by transportation officials in the two states.

"We need to fix up what we have," Norman said. "That's the first goal, fix up what's falling apart, and then [Hogan] is going to start looking at other options."

Aegis staff member Allan Vought contributed to this article.

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