POLLS AND ELECTION returns indicate that their ranks are dwindling, but Maryland's intercounty disconnectors -- fierce opponents of a long-overdue and vital highway linking Interstate 270 in Montgomery County and Interstate 95 in Prince George's County -- remain a vocal source of distortions about the project. For the second of three public hearings, which was held Saturday in Silver Spring, opponents mailed 83,000 fear-mongering fliers dressed as a newspaper called the "Montgomery and Prince George's Monitor."
A banner headline sets the fever-pitch tone: "Want a BELTWAY in Your Backyard?" The "paper," published by Save Our Communities, revives a shop-worn assumption that the building of any new highway automatically generates traffic that did not exist before. Much of that traffic has been in the back yards all along, slowly weaving lengthy trails through the counties' neighborhoods. Additional traffic is materializing no matter what; it's called growth, which can and should be controlled but won't be stopped.
Road-building hasn't begun to catch up with road needs. Maryland's accelerated push for a connector would produce only the region's first major road in a generation. Without it, state officials say, motorists will be in for even more grueling commutes. As reported by The Post's Steven Ginsberg, Maryland officials predict that a morning rush-hour trip in 2030 from Rockville to Baltimore-Washington International Airport may take about an hour and 45 minutes; Laurel to Shady Grove, one hour; Rockville to Laurel, almost an hour. A connector could save about 30 minutes on each of these drives, officials estimate.
Opponents say that these statistics could be improved by making other changes in development patterns, improvements in secondary roads, better traffic-light timing and more transit. Fine, bring them on; but for too long, the state of Maryland has been in a state of denial when it comes to road-building.
Today a growing number of key state and local officials and citizen organizations -- including the governor, General Assembly members, county leaders and area members of Congress -- are pressing to win approvals for the project. Important details remain to be worked out: selection of a route, environmental protections and financing. But the momentum is there to reach agreements. It ought not be cowed by those who deny the realities of inevitable growth.