Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said Thursday that he has put an extra $4 million into this year’s budget to catch up on an ever-deepening backlog of road maintenance projects.
That brings the fund up to $30 million in fiscal 2019, though Schuh said he believes the increase just scratches the surface of repair needs estimated at more than $125 million.
Schuh touted the road investment during a news conference in Pasadena, with Edwin Raynor Boulevard as his backdrop. He used the freshly paved road as an example of the type of maintenance he wants the additional money to pay for. The four-month project cost $1 million.
“The county has never spent enough money on an annual basis to actually maintain our system of roads,” he said. “So each and every time we constructed a road, that road began a long-term process of deterioration.”
Those potholes and cracks have contributed to a poor grade for the county’s overall infrastructure. Chris Phipps, public works director, said The American Society of Civil Engineers has given Anne Arundel a D.
Schuh, a Republican seeking re-election in November, has made road maintenance one of the cornerstones of his campaign. His opponent Steuart Pittman, a Democrat, says Schuh has allowed too much development in his first term, contributing to more traffic and stress on the county's roads.
Pittman said he agrees with Schuh on the need to spend more on roads, but he doesn’t believe the funding goes far enough.
“There are some areas in north county where the potholes will swallow your car,” he said. “It’s concentrated in certain areas, but all over the county, we have a need for road improvements.”
Part of that need stems from a history of not charging new developers more in impact fees to pay for infrastructure, he said. He believes the burden is on builders, not just taxpayers, to carry the cost.
At the news conference, Schuh said the projects are being prioritized with a rating system based on how badly the roads have crumbled and how much they’re used. Though projects have been identified in all areas, he said, there wasn’t a conscious effort to spread them out geographically.
“We don’t want a situation where the loudest people get their roads fixed and the quietest people get their roads ignored, or the politically connected people get their roads improved but the politically disconnected don’t,” he said.
But some of the biggest problem areas aren’t in the county’s purview, Schuh said. Congestion and bottlenecks are often happening on state roads: Ritchie Highway, Route 2, Route 3 in Crofton, Route 214 in Mayo and the system around Fort Meade. Schuh said he’s concerned about those highways and has had talks with Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration about trying to address them.
Before Schuh, the county had spent $17 million per year on road maintenance. When he took office, he raised it to $26 million. This budget, which took effect July 1, marks his second increase to the fund, which he calls “the historic next step.”
Among the roadwork planned, the following are a few of the projects expected to be completed with the additional money: 1st Avenue in Cromwell Manor, Dent Road in Shady Side, Meadowbrook Road in Meadowbrook, Old Mill Road in Severn and Stoney Run Road in Hanover.