Most of Montgomery County, Baltimore and the state of Maryland's highway history is more about the roads that weren't built, rather than the ones that were. After 50 to 60 years, drivers are still waiting for the Outer Beltway and new Potomac River bridges, the Rockville Freeway, the M-83 Midcounty Highway Extended, the Northwest and North Central Freeways, and the Northern Parkway. And those are just in Montgomery County! If you haven't noticed, our economy has been in decline, we are losing jobs, and large companies are going elsewhere.
Recently, Gov. Martin O'Malley directed a multimillion dollar award to Bechtel in Frederick County. Bechtel had threatened to move to Virginia. Because Maryland can't afford to lose any more jobs, Gov. O'Malley had little choice but to pay up.
What was Bechtel's number one reason to move to Virginia? The company wanted easy access to Dulles Airport, which currently does not exist from any county in Maryland. Of course, had we built the I-370/Outer Beltway Potomac River crossing directly from the I-270 corridor to Dulles, we wouldn't have this problem! The same issue was a major reason Northrop chose Northern Virginia for its headquarters over Montogmery County. Even after the payoff, Bechtel has just announced that it will shift a number of jobs from the Maryland headquarters to a Virginia location. As you know, that means a reduction in tax revenue for our state.
When will we learn that...
Texas, Kentucky and, frankly, most other states already know this, and they're taking action. Texas and Kentucky are among several states clamoring to be on the route of Interstate 69, a NAFTA superhighway that will stretch from the Mexican border to Canada through the United States.
These things take time, but the work is beginning to pay off. Some stretches are now being designated, and simply putting signs along the corridor is boosting those areas' job prospects, even before the highway is finished!
Check out these comments on the relationship between highways and jobs:
"Access to an interstate is an important driver of economic development activity, so this effort is of particular importance to South Texas communities and businesses.”
[G]etting one stretch of roadway in Kentucky designated as part of I-69 was a cause of celebration by some 200 people and dozens of schoolchildren at Southside Elementary School, which stands practically in the shadow of the newly designated I-69.
[Kentucky Gov. Steve] Beshear cited the economic development significance of putting more western Kentucky cities on an interstate, bringing jobs and companies that depend on top-rate transportation infrastructure.
Good highways are “one of the most important” factors that companies consider when locating a facility, he said, and identifying cities on an interstate highway is part of the process.
It’s extremely important and will be extremely useful to Henderson in terms of employment, job opportunities and economic development,” Henderson Mayor Steve Austin declared.
State Sen. Dorsey Ridley said the future extension of the interstate toward Henderson “will move economic development in a way people don’t realize, simply by putting up a shield called I-69” along the Pennyrile [Parkway].
At the Kentucky press conference, a representative of the Obama administration stated that this highway was just the sort of project that would create jobs and stimulate the economy - through infrastructure.
Isn't it time to move forward in Maryland?