ANNAPOLIS – Comptroller William Donald Schaefer added his opinion Wednesday to the increasingly clamorous debate over the Inter-county Connector, saying the state should move forward with an environmental impact study aborted by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
At the Board of Public Works meeting, Schaefer contended the Glendening administration has changed its policy because Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend backed an environmentally safe ICC this week in her nascent campaign for the state’s top office.
“We should do it right away instead of delaying it,” Schaefer said to a representative of the Maryland Department of Transportation. “There is a policy change.”
Responding to Schaefer’s remarks, Transportation Assistant Secretary Gregory Pecoraro said the administration’s stance remains the same on the highway that would connect Interstate 270 in Montgomery County with Interstate 95 in Prince George’s County.
“The governor’s position is very clear,” Glendening spokeswoman Michelle Byrnie said later. “He thinks the ICC would be an environmental disaster and that it would never receive federal support.”
Earlier this month, the General Assembly passed a joint resolution urging the governor to ask the federal government to resume the road’s environmental impact study.
The debate escalated Monday when Townsend broke with Glendening by saying the ICC should be built if the study shows it can be done without harming wetlands.
She made her position clear during a day of touring in Montgomery County, coincidentally when her likely Republican opponent U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., of Timonium, announced his desire to succeed Glendening.
Like Townsend, who has yet to declare her run for governor, Ehrlich supports the construction of the ICC.
The much-debated roadway, proponents concede, would reduce traffic congestion on the Beltway and provide better access between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and greater Baltimore.
Instead of relieving congestion, the highway will create more, opponents counter, and the road will destroy wetlands and other sensitive areas.
It will cost between $5 million and $10 million to restart the study, which could take three to four years to complete, according to the State Highway Administration.