Much needed repairs now possible for Baltimore Avenue

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Cumberland Times-News, February 26, 2012

 

CUMBERLAND — The Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded $737,620 to the city for improvements to Baltimore Avenue as an integral corridor in the Central Business District.

Baltimore Avenue has needed improvements for some time, according to Mayor Brian Grim.

“During my tenure as a councilman and as mayor, Baltimore Avenue has needed improvements,” said Grim, who was elected to City Council in 2008. “It is still a top priority for the council.”

City Administrator Jeff Rhodes echoes Grim’s sentiments, stating, “Baltimore Avenue has been in bad shape for years and years. The engineering department always wanted to repair the street and do it the right way. But they never had resources to repair it. The ARC funds, which are extremely important, get us to the point where we can repair the street the way it should be done.”

ARC funds will be used to widen not quite three-quarters of a mile of Baltimore Avenue with new curbs and sidewalks in addition to repaving the roadway, according to the grant announcement. The project will also make improvements to traffic signs and control devices for the roadway. The funds will be used to mill and widen the street; fix the inlets; and help ease the curves, so the street is not switching back and forth as much, said Rhodes.

Both Grim and Rhodes agreed that Baltimore Avenue is a main thoroughfare that will improve access to the Allegany County Health Department, Western Maryland Regional Medical Center, Allegany College of Maryland and Interstate 68.

“The funding from this ARC grant is essential for this project because we have run almost to the end of our bond money,” said Grim, noting that this year the city will be at the end of its street bond funds. “This funding will fill in the gaps and allow us to move forward with this major project and another project.”

The road will improve access to businesses and key institutions in Cumberland and create new jobs, according to Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, who announced the federal funding.

“In addition to creating new jobs, this ARC grant provides the funds that are needed to improve an important access road to Cumberland’s business district,” said Cardin. “Cumberland’s business district is an important commercial and economic engine for Allegany County and these improvements will bring even more people to the area.”

Officials estimate the project will support the creation of approximately 23 new jobs over the next five years, according to the announcement.

“This grant is about jobs in Western Maryland,” said Mikulski. “These federal funds will help support construction jobs in Allegany County today and build the infrastructure it needs to attract new businesses and new jobs for tomorrow.”

The Maryland State Highway Administration will administer the $1,173,764 project. In addition to ARC funds, the city will provide an additional $436,144 for the project.

“Without these funds we wouldn’t be able to get the project done, they will help us do the project right rather than just putting a bandaid on it,” said Rhodes, who added that without the funds the only thing the city could accomplish is the paving of Baltimore Avenue.

Baltimore Avenue is one of the next highest priorities on the city’s list of streets that needed to be fixed, after Henderson and Virginia avenues, according to Grim.

The ARC is a federal-state partnership that works with the people of Appalachia to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic development and improved quality of life.