Work on Route 223 in Maryland on hold because of shortage in state funding

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown vowed to follow up with the DOT.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown vowed to follow up with the DOT. (Sarah L. Voisin/the Washington Post)
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By Zoe Tillman
The Gazette
Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) told members of the District 5 Coffee Club on June 2 that the state's long-promised improvements to sections of Route 223 and Pennsylvania Avenue, in southern Prince George's County, remain on hold because of a lack of funding.

"The harsh reality is, we don't have the revenue to start new construction in the state of Maryland," he said during the community association's weekly meeting at the Safeway in Clinton.

But Brown pledged to follow up with Department of Transportation officials on the status of south county road improvements at the request of Coffee Club co-facilitators Dorothy Carolyn Lowe and Catherine Taggart-Ross, both of Clinton.

"We're congested down here. We need help," Taggart-Ross told Brown during the meeting. She is a candidate for the District 9 seat on the Prince George's County Council.

Clinton residents have been pushing for improvements to Route 223 for at least five years, Lowe said. Transportation officials first met with residents in May 2008 to discuss ways to ease congestion and improve Route 223 between Steed Road and Branch Avenue, according to Maryland State Highway Administration records.

The estimated cost of a full study -- the first of several steps before construction can begin -- is $598,000, according to the SHA. As of May, the SHA's project Web site for Route 223 indicated that "due to the economic downturn, project funding has been deferred . . . and the project is on hold."

Brown told the more than 30 residents who attended the meeting that he was aware congestion and road quality have worsened as south county continues to develop. But, he said, a statewide decline in revenue since 2007 from car-related taxes, fees and tolls has forced the state to freeze spending on most new road projects.

Lowe said after the meeting that she was aware of the state's inability to fund such projects but wanted to make sure Brown keeps south county roads in mind once funding becomes available.

Upper Marlboro resident Theresa Johnson also asked Brown about proposed intersection improvements near Joint Base Andrews, at Pennsylvania Avenue and Suitland Parkway.

Johnson said her community is suffering from traffic congestion, and she is worried that once the federal base realignment and closure process is complete, traffic will be worse. BRAC is expected to bring at least 2,700 new employees to Andrews by 2011.

Brown, who is spearheading the state's efforts to prepare for BRAC, told residents that improving the interchange "is a priority project."

"We are committed to it," he said.

According to the SHA project Web site, funding for the design of a new interchange is available and a plan is expected by fall 2011, but funding for construction is on hold because of the revenue shortfalls.

The estimated cost for the design and engineering stage of the Pennsylvania Avenue project is $6.9 million, according to the SHA.

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