ANNAPOLIS – A coalition of smart growth and environmental groups Tuesday presented a study of alternatives to the Inter-county Connector that they touted as more cost-effective, offered more traffic reduction and outperformed the road on environmental and public health measures.
The coalition’s alternatives highlight improved public transit, such as the proposed Metro rail Purple Line and dedicated highway lanes for toll users and express buses. It also looked at transit in the context of overall land-use planning to bring jobs and housing closer together.
The ICC is an 18-mile toll road and section of the long-planned Outer Beltway that would connect Interstates 270 and 95 and would cost at least $3 billion.
Its proponents, including Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan, herald it as a way to alleviate regional traffic problems.
In early December, the State Highway Administration released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement comparing two different proposed routes for the ICC, along with the option of doing nothing. At a series of recent public hearings, many speakers noted that that SHA statement shows the ICC would worsen Beltway and north-south corridor road traffic and would only marginally improve east-west movement, and then only for people who traveled the whole 18-mile length.
Some General Assembly members attended the news conference to support the study’s findings.
“I’m so opposed to this road and all the money that will be spent on such a folly that I am willing to lay down in front of the bulldozers,” said Delegate Barbara Frush, D-Prince George’s, adding “– unfortunately, someone will have to help me up.”
“We must look at alternatives to an 18-mile long concrete swatch bisecting the county,” said Delegate Adrienne A. Mandel, D-Montgomery, adding that it would divide communities and expose children in the region to additional air pollution. (The metropolitan Washington region already violates several clean air standards.)
“It makes me extremely angry to see that we in the state Legislature have to rely, not on our own government, but on outside groups, to do the job our administration had the duty and responsibility to do for the citizens of Maryland, who will pay with their tax dollars for this boondoggle,” said Sen. Sharon Grosfeld, D-Montgomery.
“We in the Legislature will have to take our obligations seriously with respect to the money going into this project since the administration is not,” she said.
Delegate James W. Hubbard, D-Prince George’s, congratulated the Prince George’s County Council for its unanimous opposition to the project and for dubbing it an “economic bypass” that would hurt, not help, the county. He noted that money should also be going to preserve open space and badly needed school construction.
Secretary of Transportation Robert L. Flanagan said he had not seen the coalition report, however he said his department is in favor of and is considering all the proposed alternative transportation improvement options discussed in it. The ICC, he said, still is essential and could not be replaced by any combination of the alternatives. – 30 – CNS-1-18-05