In a gesture aimed at softening the hardships of living amid airport noise and traffic, state officials awarded grants yesterday to three communities near Baltimore-Washington International Airport to improve sidewalks, trim trees and paint speed bumps.
The grants, which total about $225,500, are the largest given since the state created the community enhancement program two years ago.
The program, which grew from a bill sponsored by Democratic state Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., authorizes the state to contribute $1 for each takeoff and landing into a fund for transportation-related improvements within the airport's noise zone.
The Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association received $141,860 yesterday for sidewalk renovations - more money than nine communities combined received all last year.
The Marble Hill Condominium Association in Howard County's Elkridge community received $51,400, which it will use for asphalt and sidewalk repair.
And the Cloverleaf Homeowner's Association in Crofton received $32,250 to fix sidewalks, trim trees, and paint speed bumps and parking spaces.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said he hopes the grants show residents that although the state is proud of the airport's growth, it recognizes that congestion places a burden on the communities that surround it.
"This is a glass half-full program," Flanagan said. "The governor and the legislature want to be good neighbors. We want to show a tangible commitment to their welfare."
Last year, the state gave $108,000 to nine of the 16 communities that applied. This year, the committee has 30 applications and will continue to review them, said Ned Carey, who administers the program for the state.
Marble Hill residents Jim and Hilda Slunt said the application process was laborious - with all the copying, they ended up submitting 13,000 pages to the committee. But the work was worth it; as a private community, they saw few options for obtaining funding to fix potholes and repave streets.
Because Marble Hill is near the takeoff path, the Slunts say, the noise can be deafening. But, they say, the state doesn't owe them anything.
"They don't have to do anything," Jim Slunt said. "We're just glad we can participate and glad we could get all the paperwork together."
As a member of the committee, Linthicum-Shipley Heights resident Tom Holland recused himself from the vote on funding for his community. But the 87-year-old, who spent much of his career working at BWI in research and development as an Air Force civilian, said his community needed the funds to fix sidewalks along Maple Road and Hammonds Ferry Road.
While others living around Aviation Boulevard have complained about the numerous light rail crossings, parking lots and business parks springing up where farms once stood, Holland said he thinks the growth is a sign of progress.
"I don't care what people say. This airport has built up this neighborhood," Holland said. "They don't owe us nothing."