Frederick County officials heard the dire news straight from the source — there is no state money for new highway improvements.
Darrell Mobley, acting director of the Maryland Department of Transportation, warned elected leaders and residents Wednesday that the only money in the state’s six-year spending plan is for projects that are already under way.
“We continue to make progress where we can and when we can,” Mobley said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the county.... We need a revenue increase to fund transportation projects.”
Mobley gave the assessment of transportation projects during a meeting with elected officials and community leaders at Winchester Hall in Frederick that was part of the state’s annual tour of each jurisdiction in Maryland.
It is an opportunity for county leaders to ask the state to include money for certain highway improvements in the fiscal 2012-17 Maryland Consolidated Transportation Program, a construction budget that outlines funding for roads across the state.
The construction budget is different from the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which was created in 1971, as a dedicated source of money for transportation projects across Maryland.
When the Maryland General Assembly reconvenes in Jan. 9, lawmakers will review the state’s construction budget, voting on which projects will be funded in fiscal 2014.
Mobley, along with a panel of state transportation officials, gave an overview of what projects for Frederick County will move forward, although neither county nor state officials could provide a figure for how much money the county will be allocated from the budget.
The projects include a new Motter Avenue bridge and ramps over U.S. 15 in Frederick. Construction is under way on that project, which is expected to be completed in 2014.
The project — which is a partnership with the city of Frederick — includes additional improvements on Opossumtown Pike and Motter Avenue, new sidewalks, new traffic lights, the construction of retaining walls in front of the Rose Hill Plaza and Antietam Village Center on Opossumtown Pike, storm drain enhancements, and the replacement of the island and ramp on southbound U.S. 15.
The city’s portion of the project totals $2.7 million, with an additional $500,000 coming from the county and $12 million from the state and federal governments. The total cost of the project is $15.2 million.
The state construction budget also includes about $1.72 million for a new bridge on Md. 26 over the Monocacy River in Frederick; $10.7 million for various road-resurfacing projects; $7 million for a new bridge on Md. 140, or Taneytown Pike, over the Monocacy River in Frederick; and a new bridge on Md. 26 over Israel Creek in Frederick.
The budget also includes another $1 million toward engineering costs associated with the construction of a new interchange at U.S. 15 and Monocacy Boulevard on the northern end of Frederick city.
The interchange has been the top road priority for both the city and the county for three years. The interchange, when built, will serve as an eastern bypass for the city and is intended to improve safety on congested U.S. Route 15.
The county has already provided $2 million for planning and design. The city is slated to provide another $2 million this year but in April deferred it to fiscal 2015.
Final design of the interchange is expected to be completed this year but because funding is unavailable for construction, there is no estimate as to when it will be done. Total cost of the project is $91.2 million. The county asked the state for $13.8 million to purchase 35 acres of land and another $68.5 million for construction.
Ron Burns, the county’s traffic engineer, said they would like the money to purchase the land by April of next year.
Burns also asked for money to begin planning for a new $30.9-million interchange at Interstate 70 and Meadow Road in Frederick. The county has already allocated $500,000 to plan for it. They want $1 million from the state for construction.
The project, which would add a ramp from eastbound I-70 to Old National Pike and another from Old National Pike to westbound I-70, is listed in the state budget but is noted as being on hold.
The interchange is intended to improve traffic along Old National Pike, where some 14,000 vehicles travel daily.
Burns said the county wants to work with the state to move those projects forward.
“We’re not here to beg for money and say, ‘You owe us,’” he said. “We’re here to say ‘How can we help you?’”
Sen. David R. Brinkley (R-Dist. 4) of New Market also painted a bleak picture at the meeting of the state’s transportation needs, noting that suggestions such as doubling the gasoline tax will not be enough to raise the money needed to fund everything.
Maryland has not raised its 23.5 cents-per-gallon gas tax since 1992. Although Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) proposed adding to the state’s 6 percent sales tax to gasoline earlier this year, the proposal has stalled in the General Assembly.
The governor has not yet decided whether to reintroduce the proposal in next year’s legislative session.
“The long-term outlook is increasingly dire,” Brinkley said. “There isn’t the money to do anything we call for. Even if we double the gas tax, the money is not enough.”