Cumberland Times-News

January 25, 2013

Senator optimistic on region’s future

Cardin: Despite ‘economic challenges,’ Western Maryland ripe with assets, opportunities

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— ANNAPOLIS — While Western Maryland “has economic challenges,” U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin told a packed room at the Loews Annapolis Hotel Friday that the region also has a combination of valuable assets and opportunities. Cardin was speaking at the PACE breakfast.

The North-South highway, a possible energy corridor, tourism and the Appalachian Regional Commission were among the topics Cardin discussed in his remarks.

 While any appropriation is a battle in Washington, Cardin said ARC funding should be relatively stable and that threats to gut the program have been averted. In the last Congress, some lawmakers wanted to target the ARC for funding cuts, he said.

“Along with my colleague (U.S. Sen.) Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, we’ve taken the lead on ARC funding. It’s a non-partisan effort,” Cardin said. “It’s a fight we think we can win.”

Recent re-authorization of federal highway legislation was a big win and has the potential to open up the possibility of more funding for the North-South highway, Cardin said. “All of the pieces to make this happen are coming together.”

A big positive was the inclusion of toll credits, which Pennsylvania sought to help fund its portion of the highway.

Toll credits are used as a state match for Appalachian Development Highway Systems projects, which includes U.S. Route 219 North from Somerset to Meyersdale, Pa.

The senator also likes the idea of creating an energy corridor in Western Maryland.

“It’s not only gas, but wind, solar and hydro-electric power,’ said Cardin. PACE made the energy corridor a talking point for this year’s event. Energy resources in the area “are helping to establish Maryland as a leader in moving the country toward energy independence,” a PACE press release said.

Cardin was also optimistic for the country as a whole.

“We’ve had a very tough two years. It’s a new start and there are reasons for optimism,” he said.

Cardin is a member of a non-partisan Senate group updating the rules under which the chamber operates. The rules changes will limit the ability to kill bills in committee and change the rules of filibusters.

“I think there’s a new resolve to address our national problems and avoid the kind of gridlock we’ve been having,” Cardin said.

This year, the PACE theme was Energizing Maryland. PACE 2013 was co-chaired by Allegany County’s J. Robert Smith and Garrett County’s Nicole Christian.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.