Standing near a gold papier-mache Trojan horse -- and just beyond the human cicadas carrying signs that declared, "If you thought WE were loud, wait 'til you hear the ICC traffic" -- state and local officials from Montgomery and Prince George's counties ranted, one after the other, against the proposed $3 billion intercounty connector.
"This is a 1950s solution to a 2020 problem," roared Del. Adrienne A. Mandel (D-Montgomery).
"You can't build your way out of congestion," warned Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Montgomery).
"We have not wavered one bit in our opposition to a road bought by developers and . . . paid for by taxpayers," said Prince George's County Council member Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel), adding that he regards the proposed six-lane project as a "Montgomery County highway" because it would bring little economic benefit to Prince George's. While the road "goes both ways," Dernoga continued, quoting a phrase of the proposed connector's supporters, "it goes to Montgomery County in the morning and to Prince George's in the evening."
Inside James Blake High School in Silver Spring yesterday, State Highway Administration officials and consultants who have been working on the ICC Study, as it is known, held an enormous question-and-answer session with posters, graphs, charts and detailed maps hung throughout the cafeteria and down a school hallway.
"I think they have to do something with traffic," said Darnell Daisey, 43, who came with his 5-year-old son after soccer. "A lot of people say, 'don't build it,' but this a major metropolitan area."
Roads and growth are inevitable, he said. Yet he worried that the second of the two options for the connector -- an option that deviates from the corridor already designated in Montgomery County's master plan -- would zoom past his new house in the Hampshire Greens area, just north of Route 198 at New Hampshire Avenue.
"We're not against the ICC," he said, as his son tugged on his arm and asked for some chocolate milk from a nearby vending machine. "We're just saying, 'keep it on the original plan.' "
Outside the school, a couple hundred opponents, in costumes, holding signs and listening to elected officials, railed against a plan that has been about a decade in the works. They thought they had won this fight before, but with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) making it a priority, they worry that the stars are aligned for quick, decisive action.
So for the second go-round since November, ICC Study consultants stood next to posters and charts yesterday and answered residents' questions. This time, the maps were much more detailed -- so detailed, in fact, that questioners could look at them, point to a shape and say, "Right there is my house."
The majority of the 790 people who filtered in and out of the five-hour session appeared concerned that their house or neighborhood would be affected by the proposed 18-mile, tolled highway that would link Interstate 270 with I-95. Some worried about environmental side effects. Others came with "questions about traffic and what the traffic numbers are showing," said Wesley Mitchell, project manager for the State Highway Administration.
Eileen Krause, 57, who owns a company with her husband in Silver Spring and lives on two wooded acres in Spencerville, showed up because she is concerned about one of the options for where the roadway might be built. "I've lived there 30 years," she said, "and I love -- I love -- the area. It's wonderful. I'm just here to see how it's going to affect me and my property values."
Krause asked ICC Study consultant John Webster to walk her through different scenarios. "Residential displacement," Krause said, referring to places where the road would pave across existing homes. "How much does that get considered?"
"It will be tabulated in," Webster assured her. "Certain agencies are more biased toward environmental [concerns], and others are more biased toward residential."
He added that if the road ended up being built near her home, "there may be noise impact, and there's a place in the other room to talk about noise walls."
Krause walked toward the other room with a sense of, she said, "it will happen, but I don't know where it will happen."