The state Board of Public Works approved yesterday the first engineering contracts for completion of the National Freeway in Western Maryland.
The contracts, worth about $2.2 million, are for the preparation of engineering designs, field surveys and final contract plans for 10.6 miles of the 17.2-mile project.
The National Freeway is a 111-mile-long expressway extending between Morgantown, W.Va., and Hancock, Md. All but 17.2 miles of the route located east of Cumberland have been completed or are under construction.
Bids for construction of the estimated $158 million project are slated to go out in 1987.
The two contracts awarded Wednesday are for engineering work on the western segment of the project, which has generated less controversy than plans for the eastern portion through the Green Ridge State Forest.
Earlier this month, the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., voted 8 to 3 to reconsider an earlier approval of the route through Green Ridge.
Opponents of the proposed route, a citizen group called Route 40 Advocates and the Maryland Wildlife Federation, have aruged the new dual, multilane road should roughly follow the alignment of the existing U.S. 40 instead of cutting through the state forest.
That route would be three miles longer and steeper.
The existing route is difficult for trucks and recreational vehicles because of long and steep grades and the presence of local access traffic.