Foes of ICC Look Toward Last-Minute Roadblock

The office of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. denounced the campaign by opponents.
The office of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. denounced the campaign by opponents. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)

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By Tim Craig and Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Opponents are mounting a last-ditch effort to rally the public against the intercounty connector, the $2.4 billion toll road that Maryland leaders hope to start building next year.

The campaign, coming days before the federal government is to issue its final environmental review, included a news conference yesterday by four Montgomery County elected officials who denounced what they called excessively high tolls.

Their analysis concluded that it would cost motorists about $6 a day to use the highway, meaning commuters whose salaries are $30,000 a year would spend 5 percent of their gross pay each week.

"The answer to who this highway will serve is quite evident," Del. Adrienne A. Mandel (D-Montgomery) said at the news conference in Rockville. "The trucking companies will not wink an eye at these tolls, while the public will wince."

This week, the Audubon Naturalist Society plans to debut a television commercial on cable stations in Montgomery. The ad states that the planned road is bad for the environment, won't relieve traffic and will cost users money.

An announcer says "toll" three times in the 30-second spot, which ends with a voice declaring, "The ICC -- a toll road that's good for nothing."

Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan dismissed the flurry of opposition activity as "a desperate, eleventh-hour effort." He said drivers would pay no more in tolls than daily Metro riders spend on fares.

The 18-mile, six-lane highway would cut through a mix of parkland and residential communities between Interstates 270 and 95 in northern Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Federal approval -- which state officials anticipate -- would represent one of the last major hurdles for a project that has been 50 years in the works.

Mandel was joined at the news conference by Montgomery County Council members Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) and Marilyn Praisner (D-Eastern County), and Takoma Park City Council member Marc Elrich.

"The public needs to know the truth about the [project] before it's too late," Andrews said. "They need to know we are making a huge mistake."

The state plans to pay for the road largely by borrowing against future federal funds and using toll revenue to repay bonds. The rest would come from state funds and money earmarked by Congress.

Supporters say the highway is necessary to link the thriving business community along I-270 with Baltimore-Washington International Airport and the Port of Baltimore, both accessible by I-95. They also say it would reduce traffic in the rapidly crowding northern suburbs.


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