The state will contribute $3.5 million toward a road-and-rail improvement in Union Bridge -- aimed at improving access for businesses while helping residents by reducing heavy truck traffic.
Local and private money will cover the balance of the $5.5 million project that will provide a new road to the Lehigh Portland Cement Co. and a new Maryland Midland Railway Co. spur. The spur will mean removing railroad tracks through town, the state Department of Transportation announced yesterday.
"It's great," said Union Bridge Mayor Perry L. Jones. "It has to help the economy of Union Bridge all the way around.
"We'll get 90 percent of the trucks off Main Street. It's really hard to revitalize downtown when you're dealing with 200 trucks a day," he said.
Traffic interruptions on Main Street are part of the daily routine in the northwest Carroll town of about 1,000, when the trains cross the streets.
Also, heavy rains often cause Little Pipe Creek to flood Route 75 -- the main road into Union Bridge, he noted. "Then we have no access. This new road will make getting out of town easier for people," Jones said.
In announcing the grant late Friday, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the project fits his Smart Growth policy. The money came from the Neighborhood Conservation Program, intended to stimulate growth and attract private investment to existing communities. In addition to road projects, it includes landscaping and other beautification efforts along state transportation lanes.
"Maybe the governor feels that this lone Democrat up here in Union Bridge needs support," said Jones. "Technically, we're getting a bypass."
Construction money will be in the fiscal 2001 budget. The new 1.25-mile road, to be named Shepherd's Mill Road, will run across an existing farm from the intersection of Route 75 and Ladiesburg Road to Quaker Hill Road. That will improve truck access to Lehigh Cement, whose $260 million expansion will almost double the size of its plant -- making it the company's largest in North America.
The new Maryland Midland spur will be built parallel to the new Shepherd's Mill Road. The old rail tracks that run through the residential area are to be removed.
"It will bring more industrial area closer to Union Bridge," Jones said, "and keep the guys at Maryland Midland working."
John T. "Jack" Lyburn, the county's director of economic development, agreed.
"It will mean 213 acres of industrial land with a rail line running right through it. That's something we can market," he said.
Typical users would be the big companies that need trains for transporting freight, he said. The lines run to the port of Baltimore.
"It certainly will facilitate the plant expansion, which is the largest privately funded project in the state," Lyburn said.
"It will double the railroad and get the traffic out of town," he said. "It'll also give direct access to the plant."
Pub Date: 9/25/99