ANNAPOLIS – Lawmakers urged Gov. Parris N. Glendening to request the federal government resume a stalled Inter-county Connector environmental impact study, under a joint resolution approved by the Maryland House of Delegates Wednesday.
The resolution passed, 106-25.
The Senate passed an identical resolution 36-8 last Thursday, but the heavy support for the measure in the General Assembly means little this year without backing from Glendening, a persistent opponent of the proposed road, who halted the study in 1997.
The resolutions are merely “statements” of support from the General Assembly with “no real, legal impact,” said Michelle Byrnie, the governor’s press secretary.
The governor’s position has not changed that the ICC “would be an environmental disaster,” she said.
Opposition is strong, too, among many Montgomery County officials. Though County Executive Douglas M. Duncan is an outspoken backer of the ICC, the County Council voted 5 to 3 to oppose the resolutions March 5.
The long-debated road, first conceived in 1950, would connect Interstate 270 in Montgomery County with Interstate 95 in Prince George’s County.
Representatives from those delegations were the most vocal in contentious debate on the House floor, as opponents continued to argue the state would be pouring more money into never-ending studies for a project destined to never take off.
“This resolution will waste another several millions of dollars on a road in Montgomery County which will never be built,” said Delegate Leon G. Billings, D-Montgomery. “It is a waste of money (and) a waste of time. It’s a bad idea.”
The State Highway Administration estimated it will cost between $5 million and $10 million to resume the study, which could require three to four years to complete public hearings before it’s issued.
Glendening has backed mass transit as a solution to the area’s transportation problems, and supports a plan to build a Metrorail Purple Line inside the Capital Beltway connecting New Carrollton and Bethesda.
The Washington region has the third-worst traffic congestion in the nation, according to federal figures.
Even if the governor were to ask the federal government to resume the ICC study, it would likely be rejected as environmentally insensitive, opponents said. The money should instead be spent on mass transit, which moves people more easily and is less disruptive to communities, they said.
“We’ve got to think differently,” said Delegate Pauline H. Menes, D-Prince George’s, arguing for a Purple Line. “We can’t just keep building roads.”
But supporters said the ICC is an important transportation solution for more than just Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
The road is needed to provide better access between those areas and greater Baltimore, including Baltimore/Washington International Airport, said Delegate Kumar P. Barve, D-Montgomery, one of the resolution’s strongest backers who also supports the Purple Line.
“We do not need to create artificial conflict between one mode (of transit) versus another mode,” Barve said. “I believe the same nation that can put people on the moon and decode the human genome can build a road in an environmentally safe manner.”
The ICC is also an important safety measure for citizens who travel and live on residential roads clogged with drivers seeking alternate routes, supporters said.
Supporter Delegate Carol S. Petzold, D-Montgomery, said some neighborhoods in her county must build speed bumps to protect their families. “Our neighborhood streets are taking Interstate traffic because they can’t get on the Beltway because of the traffic congestion.”