December 21 – When it was announced a few weeks ago that funding had been cut for the widening of Interstate 81 in Washington County, a whole lot of people were more than a little surprised.
Governor Larry Hogan had budgeted for $100 million for the project – $90 million would come from the federal government and $10 million would come from the state – and in the beginning, Governor Wes Moore did approve it.
But now, the Moore administration is looking for ways to balance the budget and apparently some of the money to widen Interstate 81 is being cut.
Paul Frey, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce said, “We’ve been trying for over 20 years to widen I-81. Because of the budget woes here in Maryland, some of these projects have been pulled off the table. We’re hopeful that it’ll be back on, working with Congressman Trone, working with our administration here in Annapolis to get this back on because there’s so much commerce. It’s 12 miles in Washington County, but there’s so much commerce that hits the whole east coast, that we really need to get this back on the agenda and get this work done.”
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “It’s the safety factor. I mean if MDOT’s going over and over we’re going to improve safety and ringing that bell like crazy and then the blood all over that highway. We certainly are no strangers here in Franklin County. But if you’re ringing the safety alarm bell and then you’re doing this, what does that really say?”
Frey said, “The 10 exits on and off 81 where trucks, they’re in the slow lane and it’s hard for vehicles to get on or they’re in a fast lane impeding traffic. They have a no win situation. The small car against a big truck is not a winning situation. So we’ll keep persevering. We’re going to Annapolis here in January to plead our case and hopefully they’ll come back and say let’s get this back on.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM added, “I’m reading an article ‘funding is a hurdle for crowded interstate 81’ and it says most public officials and users agree we need to do this. I’m reading an article from PennLive back in January of 2011, very much stating how back in 2004 they had done a $2 million study for this. This was something all these states wanted and needed and once again, kicking it down the road, not going to happen.”
Frey said, “The study’s been done. We are shovel ready and we just need to move forward.”
Ryan noted, “The other part of that was in Washington County it was the outgoing commissioners that would pull away a place for truckers to get some rest and some sleep.”
Frey said, “I know, another place for safety. Hope springs eternal. We’ll keep after it. We’re cautiously optimistic and we’ll keep everyone involved, how they might be able to weigh in and help our decision makers make the right decision.”