Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening's Sept. 22 decision to kill the proposed intercounty connector (ICC) is reverberating through traffic jams across the metropolitan region.

The governor has been all over the proverbial map on the ICC. In 1994 then-candidate Glendening called the ICC his No. 1 transportation priority, but when he sought reelection in 1998, he opposed the road. Then he relented and appointed a commission to study the ICC, but when his commission recommended that the road be built, he ignored its findings with a succinct "I will not build the intercounty connector."

Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan recently summed up the situation: "The governor is out of touch with reality."

Lon Anderson of the American Automobile Association said the governor had condemned the metropolitan area to years of gridlock.

Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger sees the benefit of such a highway and has called for its construction using general revenue funds if necessary.

Most polls show roughly 65 percent of Montgomery County residents in favor of the ICC, and the same figure holds true for Prince George's County.

So what drives Glendening to oppose the ICC in the face of overwhelming support for the ICC from taxpayers and the political establishment? A look at the politics involved is enlightening.

Glendening is a lame duck, with three years left in his constitutionally mandated last term. In less than a year, in the middle of the 2000 presidential campaign, he will become chairman of the National Governors' Association.

Those of us in Prince George's County who have watched Glendening go from the Hyattsville City Council, to the Prince George's County Council, to county executive to governor clearly understand one thing about him: Glendening is nothing if not a planner. And most of those plans were written in four-year increments.

So what will Glendening do when his term is up? Barring an unforeseen vacancy or upset, a race for U.S. Senate is not on the radar screen. But another route exists to the national power structure, and for Maryland's governor that route is called the Gore administration.

Glendening's 1994 choice of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as his running mate for lieutenant governor made little political sense at the time. While Townsend gave his ticket geographic balance, the Baltimore County attorney had run only one campaign, and that was perceived to be of poor quality. In 1986 she was thrashed by then U.S. representative Helen Bentley. Townsend is, however, a Kennedy.

As lieutenant governor, Townsend has allowed Glendening, who supported the late Paul Tsongas for the 1992 nomination, entree to the Democrats on the national scene in Washington.

Thus, should Al Gore become president, the name of Parris Glendening probably will be high on his list of potential Cabinet members. As a professor and the self-anointed "Education Governor," Glendening has established his policy credentials to run the federal Department of Education.

Additionally, his smart-growth policy makes him a trendsetter for the environmental movement. Killing the ICC helps put Glendening's name in play to head the Environmental Protection Agency. A decision to build the ICC over the objection of environmental groups would have ruled out Glendening from serious consideration for the job of EPA chief.

With two shots at Cabinet positions, Glendening has to think his chances of an appointment are good. As a bonus in the view of some in the liberal power elite, if Glendening does move to the Cabinet, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend can follow him into the governorship.

-- Kevin Igoe

is a GOP political consultant in Maryland.