Frederick officials prod lawmakers for transportation funding -- Gazette.Net


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Lawmakers may have come for the food, but if Frederick Alderman Carol Krimm has her way, they’ll also get an earful about transportation funding.

“If I see any Appropriations [Committee] members, or Budget and Taxation senators, I’m talking to them about ‘Do not cut the highway user fees,’” said Krimm (D) at City of Frederick Day in Annapolis on Tuesday, where city officials trotted out development projects alongside lunch.

Del. Steven J. DeBoy Sr. (D-Dist. 12) of Arbutus was one such delegate cornered by Frederick officials and urged to ensure that transportation funds are not cut from the budget.

“We recognize that it [transportation funding] has been reduced over the years,” said DeBoy, vice chairman of the Transportation and Environment Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. “So there’s an effort to keep it where it’s at.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) included $15.4 million in one-time grants to municipal governments for transportation projects in his fiscal 2014 budget proposal.

Frederick is slated to receive about $1.4 million of that, nowhere near what it is needed, Mayor Randy McClement (R) said.

“We’re between $8 [million] and $9 million in arrears,” McClement said of transportation projects in the city. “Last year we were thankfully able to do $1 [million] to $2 million in projects, but I don’t know how you catch up to a deficit like that.”

One of the projects, an $80 million interchange to complete construction of Monocacy Boulevard, which McClement describes as the city’s “outer loop,” will serve to get cars off congested U.S. Route 15, he said.

McClement said the design phase for the interchange is almost complete, but city officials have seen no indication that state funding will be available for construction, especially if no deal is made this legislative session to increase revenue for transportation.

“We’re at a dead-end with this road,” he said.

Decreased revenue for roads doesn’t just mean congestion and potholes, city officials said. It also slows development in the rest of the city, which is projected to grow 50 percent by 2030.

“If we’re going to be able to accommodate that, we need to have the infrastructure funding,” Alderman Karen Young (D) said.

The interchange “would open up development for our city,” she said.

Development like the downtown hotel and conference center that the city has been planning since 2009 is going to need some level of state funding, officials said. The state already funded a recently completed study for the project, which will be paid for through a public-private partnership.

City officials plan to hire a consulting firm and select a location from one of seven options.

The city hopes to have something in the ground by 2015, said Richard “Ric” Adams, president of the Frederick Chamber of Commerce.

“I don’t think we can begin to know how much extra income we’ll get from that,” Adams said. “Once you build it, they will come.”

Already the city gets more requests for conference and meeting space — everyone from church groups to major companies — than it can accommodate, according to Beckey Bickerton, director of sales for the Tourism Council of Frederick County.

She said most want to meet downtown, but until the city gets the conference center built, there’s nowhere to put them.

hnunn@gazette.net