As one who suffered years of driving the winding back roads between Gaithersburg and various points east, I wondered whether a connector would ever be built. Even though I've left the area, I follow the intercounty connector (ICC) controversy with interest.
I can see both sides of the argument. But one topic I do not see addressed is the issue of "if you build it, they will come." For example, your paper's June 21 editorial "The Road-Rage Brigade" perpetuates the fallacy that building yet another road solves growth problems. This has never been true, according to many credible studies.
Anecdotally, any of us who have lived near Interstate 270 and watched the various stages of its sprawl from four lanes to 10 (and in some places, more) can vouch for the fact that no matter how many lanes are added, it remains a parking lot during rush hour.
-- Elizabeth Rose
West Lisbon, N.D.
Michele Dyson's piece on the ICC [Close to Home, June 13] contradicted projections by proclaiming that the intercounty connector will cost almost twice as much as the state expects, attract more trucks than the state predicts and lead to additional highways that aren't in any master plans.
Dyson did not mention that her cost figure includes half a billion dollars in arbitrary "cost overruns," as calculated by ICC opponents. She also includes "finance charges" that are easily fudged and, as a rule, are not included in the price of similar projects.
Interstate truckers will not, as she claimed, flock to the ICC to get around the Maryland suburbs -- unless truckers want to travel 30 miles rather than 12 miles slogging through, not around, those suburbs. The ICC is much more useful as a regional route, and as such will get trucks off local roads that are not designed to handle them.
The 1997 federal environmental impact study of the ICC found that two-thirds of traffic on the highway -- about 50,000 to 78,000 vehicles per day -- would be diverted from existing roads. This year's environmental impact study shows that peak-hour trips from Rockville to Laurel or to Baltimore-Washington International Airport would be 30 minutes shorter with the ICC than without. The new study shows that with the ICC, 29 percent more jobs would be reachable in 45 minutes by residents living north of the Capital Beltway.
Moreover, Maryland plans to implement a promising toll concept on the ICC called "congestion pricing." Toll prices will vary based on demand, to keep traffic moving at a minimum of 50 mph. Congestion pricing is a win-win proposition because it reduces traffic while covering a huge share of road construction costs.
Fundamentally, the ICC will help ensure that our region remains just that -- a region. Without adequate transportation, communities will become increasingly isolated from one other, while residents will be unable to seek jobs or opportunities more than a few miles from home. Prince George's County stands to suffer the most from lack of connectivity to nearby economic centers.
-- Royal S. Buyer
In "The Road-Rage Brigade," your paper dismisses opponents of the ICC by implying that we are concerned only about having a highway in our back yards. No mention is made of the estimated $3 billion cost of the ICC.
Those of us who advocate alternatives to the ICC are concerned not just about the threat the road poses to our back yards, our forests and our communities. We are also outraged taxpayers who are sick and tired of local and state politicians who, beholden to the developers who bankroll their campaigns, waste our tax dollars on harmful projects such as the ICC. With county taxes and state fees rising, draconian budget cuts looming and Metro suffering a funding shortfall, it is fiscally irresponsible to resurrect this overstudied boondoggle.
Let's bring on the environmentally sound alternatives rather than waste more time and money on the ICC.
-- David Hostetter
Your paper claims that ICC opponents are in denial about the reality of inevitable growth. Yet it is inevitable that growth will end, because we live in a finite world. Further, we live in a country where 97 percent of our transportation is fueled by oil, a nation that uses 25 percent of the world's oil and that has less than 2 percent of the world's oil reserves. That inevitable growth may stop quite abruptly when global oil production enters its inevitable decline.
The Association for the Study of Peak Oil predicts that global oil production will peak in 2008. Your paper reports that the ICC would save 30 minutes on a trip to BWI airport in 2030. But what will airfares cost after oil production has been falling for 20 years? The ICC study assumes that oil will cost no more in 2030 than it does today. That is wishful thinking.
We would be much better off with the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway than with the ICC. Given the reality of limited resources, we can't spend the same money on transit and the ICC.
-- Carl Henn