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Weather delays opening of first segment of Intercounty Connector

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 6, 2010; 8:29 PM

Recent rain and this week's cold snap have slowed construction on the Intercounty Connector, pushing the opening of the highway's first 7.2-mile segment to early next year instead of this month, an ICC spokesman said Monday.

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ICC officials had hoped the 18.8-mile highway's first segment, between Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg and Georgia Avenue in northern Silver Spring, would open by late 2010 or early 2011. Spokesman Ray Feldmann said 94.7 percent of the first section's work was complete as of Friday. Much of the remaining work, particularly paving, however, requires dry weather and higher temperatures, he said.

"There's too much work left to do and not enough days left in December to do it," Feldmann said.

"Not a lot needs to be done," he said. "It's just a question of when can we do that other 5.3 percent?"

This week's freezing temperatures added to the delays, which began last year during an unusually rainy spring, summer and fall, followed by record snowfall in the winter, ICC officials have said.

ICC project director Melinda Peters has been monitoring the work daily to see whether crews could finish by late this month, but she recently concluded that too much paving and electrical work remains, along with installation of many signs, Feldmann said.

The electrical work includes the toll-collection system, which will be the first all-electronic toll system in Maryland. Drivers will be required to have an E-ZPass transponder or a bill for the toll will be mailed to the address on the vehicle's registration.

Feldmann said ICC officials do not consider the first section's opening behind schedule.

"It's not really a question of being late," he said. "We just have a much better idea now of which of the two - late 2010 or early 2011 - it's going to be."

Feldmann said he could not pinpoint a month for the opening next year.

The six-lane highway will connect the I-270 corridor in Montgomery County with the Interstate 95 corridor in Laurel, in northwestern Prince George's County. The remaining two segments in the highway's middle and eastern sections are still scheduled to open by late next year or early 2012, Feldmann said. The highway's construction cost is budgeted at $2.56 billion.

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