Mountain Road project gets a boost


State transportation officials said yesterday that a project to widen Mountain Road, having reached a fiscal dead end last year, may again be considered for funding.

But the money to improve Route 3 in Crofton and relieve congestion is not likely to materialize any time soon.

The transportation officials, who included state Secretary of Transportation O. James Lighthizer and State Highway Administrator Hal Kassoff, made the remarks at an annual briefing to Anne Arundel officials.

District 31's State House delegation and Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland have been pressing the state to widen Mountain Road. Traffic congestion along the busy road has become a major issue in the campaigns for local offices, including state Senate, House of Delegates and County Council.

The project was put on hold last year because of decreased federal and state spending on highway projects. State spending for highway projects hit a high of $750 million in 1990, but is expected to fall to less than $400 million by 1997.

"That had always been contemplated to drop," Mr. Kassoff said, noting that funding usually runs in cycles with spending for new projects followed by a period of spending on repair and maintenance.

"What was not contemplated was that [spending] would drop so suddenly," he said.

As a result of the drop in funding, no new construction projects worth more than $5 million will be started after the 1997 fiscal year, Mr. Kassoff said.

Even though money is tight, Mr. Kassoff said the lobbying by Anne Arundel politicians paid off in terms of the Mountain Road project.

"This is back in as a candidate project. It is not funded at this point, but it certainly is a candidate for future funding," he said.

He also said that the design for the project is half-complete and that money for engineering may be found in the next two or three years. This does not include construction funds.

Still, the news was enough to give local officials cause for hope.

"We're going to push to get money next year," said Del. Joan Cadden, a Brooklyn Park Democrat.

Mr. Kassoff also told state Sen. Jack Cade, a Severna Park Republican, that it was unlikely any state money would be found for major improvements to Route 3 through Crofton or for a western bypass. It would be more realistic for the county to fix particular intersections such as Route 424 and the entrance to Crofton than to build a new limited-access highway, said Mr. Kassoff.

Regardless of what happens, Mr. Cade urged that something be done soon "because we are literally in gridlock in that area."

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