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Thursday, December 21, 2006

MOST OFFICIALS in Maryland understand that the planned intercounty connector, possibly history's must studied road, has been examined and assessed ad nauseam -- and approved. Still, the Montgomery County Planning Board has blocked the state's purchase of a few small parcels for the 18-mile ICC, thus prolonging the roadway's 40-year-plus odyssey just a little bit more.

Depending on who's doing the explaining, the board has held up sale of 87 acres along the planned route because:

· The precise location of a planned maintenance facility is in dispute.

· Further protection for environmentally sensitive watersheds is required from the state.

· The planning board wants Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley (D) and the newly elected County Council to affirm that the connector will really be built.

Maybe the board members are also awaiting a bolt of lightning or some other heavenly sign before they give the go-ahead for the road, which would connect two vital corridors in the Maryland suburbs, Interstate 270 in Montgomery County and I-95 in Prince George's County. While they wait, they might consider that the connector has been on the drawing board since the 1950s; that it has been the subject of exhaustive efforts to mitigate possible environmental impacts; that the state and federal governments have given it the green light; that financing is in place; and that the 87 acres in dispute have been purchased, preserved and set aside for the roadway over the course of three decades. As for Mr. O'Malley, he has backed the ICC repeatedly.

Environmentalists filed lawsuits yesterday; that is their right. In the meantime, the planning board should stop its posturing, sell the parcels and get out of the way.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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