Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening's two fellow members of the Board of Public Works voted yesterday to fight his attempt to sell off land that had been purchased for a highway connecting Interstates 270 and 95, in hopes of keeping the project alive.
State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon (D) expressed displeasure at the governor's recent decision to cancel the roadway, known as the intercounty connector.
Schaefer called Glendening's move "erroneous" and said the governor hadn't thought through the decision.
The comments were made at a meeting of the Board of Public Works, which the three men serve on and which approves large state contracts. With Glendening (D) sitting between them, managing a tight smile, Schaefer and Dixon voted for a resolution not to abandon construction plans. Their resolution also stated that the panel must approve any deal to sell state land intended for the road.
"You aren't following the law. You're going to do this no matter what we think," Schaefer said. "Luckily, there are some restraints on you."
For his part, Glendening called the move "a symbolic vote having no value in law."
A week ago, the governor said he was canceling 50-year-old plans to build the roadway. He said the state would sell off 18 parcels of land purchased to acquire right of way along the road's northern alignment, one of several options considered for the connector. That land totals about 275 acres and cost about $22.4 million.
Glendening also said he would move to dedicate land along a proposed southern alignment for parks and a future transit line. He said the state would move ahead on limited-access parkways near each end of the proposed road.
Schaefer accused the state Department of Transportation of looking for ways to subvert the board and sell the land without a vote by the three members. Gregory Pecoraro, an assistant secretary of transportation, denied that during yesterday's meeting.
State attorneys are studying the legal ramifications of selling the land. The preliminary analysis is that the sales probably would require Board of Public Works approval.
But the decision to go forward on a highway belongs solely to the governor and does not go to the Board of Public Works, Glendening spokesman Michael Morrill said.
After the meeting, Dixon said he opposed canceling the project and would vote against selling the land. Losing the right of way "ties the hands of future governors and county executives" who might want to build the road, he said.
Glendening noted that the Montgomery and Prince George's county councils support canceling the road. Although Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) said he wants to buy the state land to preserve the option of building the highway, the County Council on Tuesday voted against buying the land.
In an interview, Schaefer said the only reason Glendening was canceling the project was to burnish his national environmental reputation. He noted that Glendening favored the highway as Prince George's county executive. In response, Glendening said, "I've seen the light."