Governor backs study to complete county road $150,000 pledged to probe White Marsh Blvd. project


For decades, Baltimore County politicians have dreamed of the pot of gold that would await completion of the 3.5-mile extension of White Marsh Boulevard.

Several major development proposals, including a theme park and a motor raceway, have been tied to the extension, which would cut through a huge parcel of prime real estate. But, so far, XTC none has been built.

Yesterday, Gov. Parris N. Glendening reawakened those dreams pledging $150,000 -- to be augmented by $30,000 in county funds -- to study how to finish the road. The money would pay for a consultant to work with a task force of residents and state, county and business officials.

Eastside legislators have been pushing hard for the project. "Potentially, that area is a gold mine for economic development," said state Sen. Michael J. Collins, an Essex Democrat.

County economic development director Robert L. Hannon said existing businesses such as the Lockheed-Martin plant and Martin State Airport, where many private business planes are based, could also benefit.

A frustrating cycle has developed over the years, however.

Without the road, the 1,000-acre, industrially zoned A. V. Williams property cannot attract developers the county wants. But without a developer, the state hasn't been willing to put up money for the road.

"It's like the chicken and the egg," County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III said.

Developers who want to build a NASCAR track on part of the land have had exactly that problem, Mr. Collins said. Without firm racing dates, public officials won't go to bat for the developers on the road. But without a state commitment to build the road, developers say NASCAR won't provide racing dates.

The problem now, Mr. Ruppersberger said, is that with no gasoline tax increase in the works, the state will not have the money to build the four-lane divided highway that could cost from $30 to $100 million.

So the task force will try to develop a cost-sharing plan including the state, county and private interests who want to develop surrounding properties.

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