Although Western Maryland is close to Baltimore, Washington and Pittsburgh, transportation always has been a problem. The original roads west were paved with good intentions - Western Maryland has been used as a thoroughfare since the Revolutionary era - but they grew inadequate for the demands of a modern economy. Coupled with new regional air service out of Cumberland Airport, completion of the final 19-mile stretch of I-68 has expectations high.
The last leg of the project cost $182 million and was delayed nearly a decade as state officials, responding to environmental concerns, developed a plan to dynamite through the Appalachian mountains and avoid Rocky Gap State Park. Competition from the Washington suburbs and Baltimore for highway money also helped delay completion.
I-68, which runs from Hancock, Md., to Morgantown, W.Va., is also another piece of a plan, put in place when Gov. William Donald Schaefer took office, to market Western Maryland as a destination for tourists and new businesses.
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