For anyone who had any doubts what the ICC was really about, you needed look no further than the front page of The Washington Post Business section, not one day after Gov. Ehrlich's announcement. The headline read "More Intense Development Likely With Md. Connector." After having been to every one of the State Highway Administration forums and being assured that the purpose of the ICC was traffic alleviation, the truth finally came out. But I must admit that I am amazed it took less than 24 hours before the vultures started circling.
The ICC has always been about the money. To those who think that the road will be built in order to get where you're going faster and easier, and because Doug Duncan and Bob Ehrlich feel your pain, here's a prediction: After the Wal-Marts, 7-Elevens and McDonald's restaurants are built alongside the road, after the 300 homes on five-acre plots are developed on either side of the highway, you will be stuck in traffic even worse than before, and we'll be talking once again about another new highway a few miles north.
The fact is that we never gave smart, progressive ideas a chance. The solution for some people was always a big, fat road. Which will be, for those same people, the most lucrative solution.
The ICC would be an unmitigated disaster. It would take $2.4 billion away from higher-priority transit projects, destroy farms and forests and do nothing to improve traffic for most area trips. People cite job growth as an ICC benefit. Nonsense. Sprawl-based job growth is the last thing we need. And by funneling customers to the proposed Konterra mall, it would destroy jobs at existing stores in Wheaton and Silver Spring. The ICC is based on the assumption that oil is either infinite or easily replaced and that farmland is of lesser value than pavement. These assumptions are false. Oil is finite and is running out at exactly the rate that we consume it. America's oil production peaked in 1970. We have been pumping more oil than we discover since the early 1980s and now burn around three times as much as we find each year. Many oil analysts believe that global oil production will peak by 2010.
If we start building the ICC now, it should be done in 2010, just in time to be obsolete. It's time to put a stake in the heart of this poorly conceived project.
Rosemary M. Hamill
To this lifelong resident of Montgomery County, who has watched the exponential growth in people and traffic for the past 30-plus years, one thing has become abundantly clear: More roads do not solve congestion problems. The ICC is not a long-term solution, perhaps not even a short-term one. The ICC will be as congested as any other major thoroughfare in the area within a few years, and residents will pay billions of dollars for it.
This is progress? What we need are transportation officials who can see past the next election and own up to the fact that real long-term transportation solutions take time and planning -- often coming to fruition after an elected official is out of office and can take credit for it.
I am very opposed to the ICC, not just because I live in Longmead but because I believe it is a monster and a huge waste of money. It would destroy our beautiful community and affect the entire county. It would bring in more development and congestion. We need the [Metro] Purple Line and to widen the roads we have and improve the intersections. As I heard someone say, "There are no buses that run between Beltsville and Rockville, why a road?" The ICC will not help congestion and will destroy beautiful parkland. It should not be built at all. It has been opposed for 40 years. . . . It is time to put it to rest.
I am astonished by the recent ICC decision. As clearly concluded during the last process for a draft environmental impact statement, the proposed highway is an environmental disaster. The dichotomy of Gov. Ehrlich's rhetoric is clear: It is impossible to support efforts to restore the troubled Chesapeake Bay, yet support construction of either corridor of the ICC. Destruction of extremely valuable ecosystems, if this highway becomes reality, will directly contribute to the further decay of the bay and its tributaries (such as the Anacostia River). The ICC will not alleviate traffic, will destroy neighborhoods in addition to precious parkland, is a fiscal nightmare and is clearly meant only to boost big business and the interrelationship with elected officials.
The right decision was made by Ehrlich's predecessor. Let's get Ehrlich out of office before the State Highway Administration starts digging our grave.
Patricia A. Thomas
I am writing to express my disapproval of road construction that has no mass transit equivalent being planned alongside it. All this will do is increase congestion on local roads near the entrance and exit points of the toll road.
I live near the intersection of Route 29 and Randolph Road.
The ICC will be about a mile north of our house, where it will cross Old Columbia Pike.
We travel to Rockville about five days a week, so at first I was very interested in the ICC.
After attending the information meeting at Blake High School, I decided I was against its construction.
We were told that the heavy traffic on the Beltway would not be significantly improved, so the justification for disrupting the environment and the hefty price tag to citizens of Maryland can only be for one reason; to take cars from BWI Airport to the office parks around Interstate 270 and Shady Grove Road.
Making it easier and more convenient for business travelers is not a good enough reason to build the ICC.
Zella Shabasson Rosenberg
The intercounty connector would be an embarrassment for our region. In the last few decades, forward-thinking officials in cities including Portland, Oregon, and Curitiba, Brazil, have enacted planning policies that make sense, realizing that land use and transportation are inextricably linked. In these places, mass transit efficiently transports commuters while air pollution and traffic congestion are low. In other cities, such as Los Angeles and Atlanta, sprawling, automobile-centered development has led to poor air quality and horrendous traffic.
It's clear from the state study that the ICC would add traffic to many local roads, making congestion on major commuter routes such as Colesville Road and Georgia Avenue worse, not better.
Moreover, as we have read in recent stories in The Post, developers are excited about the prospect of the ICC. They can't wait to build more housing and more office parks. This development would lead to more people commuting more miles, adding to our congestion and pollution problems.
The goal should be taking cars off the roads. Our elected officials need to concentrate on measures that would reduce driving, including planning affordable housing and job centers close together and doing everything possible to encourage the use of mass transit. We are at a crossroads in our region's development, and the ICC is the wrong road to take.
As I have for decades, I oppose the proposed location, community, environmental and economic impacts of the ICC, a 1950s solution to a potential 2020 concern. The constantly escalating costs, both in dollars and negative impacts, far outweigh any potential public benefit to laying an 18-mile, six-lane swath of concrete across our counties. Multiple studies confirm that the project will not bring congestion relief. Build it, and more traffic will come. In fact, recent analysis of the draft environmental impact statement clearly indicates that Beltway traffic at Georgia Avenue, Colesville Road, Connecticut Avenue and Interstate 270 will increase with the construction of an ICC.
At what dollar costs, if this highway were to be built?
* At a cost of $2.4 billion plus financing, for a total of at least $3 billion of taxpayer funds, about $166 million per mile.
* At a cost of mortgaging our transportation future and that of a significantly underfunded state transportation budget, by borrowing $750 million over 12 years against Maryland's share of federal transportation funds, effectively shelving other essential, less damaging transit and road projects throughout the state.
* At a cost of imposing tolls so Marylanders will pay twice, in tax dollars and then again in tolls; or with an estimated $1,800 annual cost to users, the highway will be Lexus lanes -- available only to those who can afford to pay.
At what quality-of-life costs, if this highway were to be built?
At a cost that will produce an alarming assault on our quality of life: degrading our environment; increasing air and noise pollution from speeding cars and heavy trucks, threatening the health of our residents; and encouraging a cycle of sprawl development at every interchange. The ICC has been rejected by multiple federal agencies citing destruction of pristine parklands, forests, streams, wetlands and wildlife habitat. The topography of this land has not changed since the master plan alignment was rejected -- twice.
At what community disruption costs, if this highway were to be built?
At a cost of running right through, dividing, a residential community of 5,000, endangering the safety of children at play and depressing property values; and displacing numerous homes and businesses along its route.
There are far less damaging, feasible and fiscally prudent alternatives that should and can be implemented more quickly than an ICC could be built. Creative solutions and a multi-pronged approach are necessary, including intersection and road upgrades, balanced land-use planning, automated traffic technologies, expanded transit routes and frequency, incentives to encourage and support van- and car pooling, flextime and telecommuting.
The ICC is an outdated concept an illusion of convenience, of marginally improved travel time. The costs are certainly not worth the negligible 12 to 20 minutes of projected cross-county travel time saved. We cannot build our way out of transportation concerns. This ICC is, and must remain, a road not taken, a road not built.
Del. Adrienne A. Mandel