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The Maryland State Highway Administration says it is starting from scratch on the Rocks Road project, but residents and others concerned about potential damage to the environment and to the integrity of Rocks State Park have good reason to be skeptical.

“We are coming into this with a blank slate,” Kirk McClelland, director of the office of highway development for the
State Highway Administration, said at the initial meeting last week of a citizens committee the SHA convened to improve communications and to get community input about the project.

“You say you are starting with a clean slate, but I have trouble believing it,” Deborah Bowers, of Street, a committee member, told McClelland.

“We need to have an institutional change with SHA. You guys, from the very beginning dating back a year, have been playing down the project and using language that made it seem like there were hardly any changes being made to the road,” she said.

Bowers is right on the mark. SHA planned to do as it pleased on a project of questionable necessity in the first place. The agency had a scorched earth plan in place to deal with erosion of the stream bank in a few places between Rocks Road and Deer Creek. It backed off only after citizens complained and this newspaper began asking uncomfortable questions about the need for the project and the methods involved.

Frankly, the citizens panel approach amounts to stalling and obfuscating. Bog things down in rhetoric for a few months and maybe the opponents will go away, which once again causes us to question the SHA’s motivation in the first place.

There are clearly erosion problems along Rocks Road in some places; yet, it appears shoring up the road on the stream side does not appear to be an option for SHA. The agency wants to spend upward of $10 million to move the road back, and if the agency gets its way, that will be just for starters.

What we can’t understand is why the Northern Harford County legislators, Sen. Barry Glassman and Dels. Wayne Norman and Donna Stifler, haven’t gone to the Secretary of Transportation and told her to make SHA back off and start paying attention to the more pressing highway needs in Harford County. As we have noted before, state financial resources are scarce, and it’s time to put them to optimal use, which this clearly isn’t.

Ending this Rocks Road charade is a fine place to start, and don’t give us that palaver that the money involved is from a different fund. It’s all ours in the end.

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