ANNAPOLIS – Three alternatives for the proposed Inter-county Connector, including not building at all, have made the cut for presentation to the public, a state-federal study team announced Thursday.
These alternatives were presented by the Inter-county Connector Study Team for the “next phase of study,” according to a statement from the Maryland State Highway Administration.
The controversial road is planned to connect Interstates 270 and 95 or U.S. Route 1 corridors in central and eastern Montgomery County and northwestern Prince George’s County.
Many alternatives were offered, said Valerie Burnette Edgar, an SHA spokeswoman, and some were recommended for rejection by the study team.
The selections come only months after the project study began in June, but the debate over the road has been going on for 40 years.
ICC planning studies began in 1979, but protests and environmental concerns caused many delays. Former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening finally stopped an environmental study of the proposed routes and vowed not to build it.
Just three years later, it became a top transportation priority of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and this year, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation put the project on the fast track so that environmental studies can be completed in two years.
Even now, the project attracts opponents.
“I’m concerned about the negative economic impact of this road on Prince George’s County,” said Peter A. Shapiro, Prince George’s County Council chairman.
Only already developed areas in Maryland would benefit from construction of the ICC, Shapiro said. Areas inside the Beltway in Prince George’s County with less development would not.
“It exacerbates the “region divided” phenomenon that we see in the Washington Metropolitan area,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro favors the study group’s “no-action” alternative, which the State Highway Administration said will include “no substantial improvement . . . to east-west transportation facilities” other than those already contemplated in the region’s master planning.
Two other options are in the running for public perusal. The first would run from I-270 near Shady Grove to Route 1 south of Laurel, according to the SHA, generally following the master plans of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
The second alternative generally follows the same route, however it deviates at State Route 97 and curves east to cross I-95 and ends at Route 1 north or Muirkirk Road.
“Fooling around with the lines on a map isn’t going to change the basic problems with the ICC,” said Steve Caflisch, transportation chairman for the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club.
The master plan route goes through many environmentally sensitive stream valleys, including Rock Creek and Paint Branch, Caflisch said.
The project is being structured in such a way that the only answer will be to build a limited access highway on one of the routes, he said.
A public hearing will be held next year on the suggestions after federal, state and local agencies, as well as the public, review them, Edgar said. -30- CNS-10