Full Intercounty Connector to open Nov. 22

October 27, 2011

The full Intercounty Connector is scheduled to open Nov. 22, Maryland transportation officials said late Thursday.

The 18.8-mile highway will open between Intersate 370 in Gaithersburg and Interstate 95 in Laurel by 6 a.m., weather permitting, said Cheryl Sparks, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority. The ICC’s first 7.2-mile segment opened between I-370 and Norbeck Road, just east of Georgia Avenue, in February.

“We were committed to opening it as soon as it was ready,” Sparks said.

Word of the opening came Thursday evening during a public meeting in Howard County, when Howard County Executive Ken Ulman asked Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley for an opening date. The transportation authority plans to make an official announcement Friday, Sparks said.

Toll rates on the full ICC will remain the same as those set for the first section. A passenger vehicle will be charged $4 to drive end to end during peak times, $2.40 during non-peak hours and $1.60 during overnight hours, Sparks said. Motorists who don’t have an E-ZPass transponder will be charged a new “video toll rate” amounting to 150 percent of the base toll rate. Motorists will be billed by mail for the surcharge, Sparks said.

The question will be how many people use the toll road once it fully opens. State officials have said usage on the first section jibes with their projections, but motorists have commented on the first segment’s empty feeling. ICC officials have said they expect the road’s popularity to increase significantly once it is fully open.

State officials have said the toll highway will be finished within its $2.56 billion construction budget. However, the project received new scrutiny last week when ICC officials announced that state inspectors had discovered hairline cracks in 13 piers of three overpasses carrying traffic over the ICC’s first section. ICC officials said the cracks stemmed from a design flaw that they do not believe was replicated on other overpasses.

Katherine Shaver is a transportation and development reporter. She joined The Washington Post in 1997 and has covered crime, courts, education and local government but most prefers writing about how people get — or don’t get — around the Washington region.
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