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Benefit of Md. Connector Cited

Study Predicts Economic Boost in Montgomery, Pr. George's

By Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 17, 2004; Page B04

Maryland transportation officials released a study yesterday supporting their contention that a proposed highway linking Montgomery and Prince George's counties would add jobs, save travel time and protect businesses.

The east-west highway, known as the intercounty connector, would encourage the creation of nearly 17,000 jobs, according to the study commissioned by the Maryland State Highway Administration. Residents and businesses would save as much as $300 million a year, thanks to more efficient travel, the report said.

The connector project was revived by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), above with Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R). (The Washington Post)

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The highway's existence would encourage Maryland businesses to stay put, rather than look for better locations outside the state, and would support the growth of Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the study said.

It also concluded that more than 60 percent of the jobs created would be in the service and retail industries, and a small percentage would be of the high-paying type that business and civic leaders covet.

And it found that the "economic benefit of the ICC to regional carriers and shippers is likely to be only incremental." The time savings to a company such as FedEx, which has a sorting facility in Rockville, would be four to six minutes a day, enough to possibly add one delivery to the daily load.

The connector plan calls for construction of an 18-mile, toll highway linking the business corridor along Interstate 270 with Interstate 95, the main north-south artery on the East Coast and a direct link to BWI and the Port of Baltimore. The estimated cost of the six-lane road, which state officials hope to begin building in 2006, is $1.7 billion before financing charges.

Maryland politicians, business leaders and environmentalists have debated the highway plan for decades and the project lay dormant for several years until Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) revived it after his election in 2002.

Backers of the idea saw the economic impact study as critical to solidifying support for it. State officials have dropped claims that the highway would reduce traffic congestion on the Capital Beltway or other major roads, though they say it would allow more people to use those roads as drivers shift to the connector.

The report found that the economic benefits for Prince George's were greater than for Montgomery, where most of the highway would be located, a result that state officials said answered questions about whether the highway would funnel jobs and business away from Prince George's.

"The benefits of the intercounty connector are widespread -- it's far more than a Montgomery County project," said Robert L. Flanagan, Maryland's transportation secretary. "It makes Prince George's County a more attractive place to have a business, and it creates encouragement for existing businesses to stay where they are."

The study looked at the impact of the two proposed routes of the highway from 2010 to 2030. State officials said the cost savings would be $6.7 billion over that period for one of the proposed routes, designated Corridor 1, and $5.7 billion for Corridor 2.

The savings would come mostly from reduced travel times, while vehicle operating costs, travel time reliability and improved freight traffic would account for some other savings.

Corridor 2 would generate 16,855 jobs, whereas Corridor 1 would create 14,200 jobs within five years of the highway's construction, the study said.

The connector's opponents say that it would lead to more suburban sprawl and that it would encourage development in a part of the state that is already crowded.

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© 2004 The Washington Post Company