It's hard to know whether Maryland's Intercounty Connector, also known as the ICC and Route 200, will ever become informally known as Ehrlich Highway or the Ehrlich Connector, but it now has a shot.
On Thursday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) dedicated the 18.8-mile toll road to his Republican predecessor and onetime boss, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., whom he credited with reviving and championing a road mired for decades in political controversy.
"It wasn't until Governor Bob Ehrlich made it a top priority of his administration that the Intercounty Connector project finally moved forward and became a reality," Hogan said amid the sounds of passing traffic on the ICC near Muncaster Mill Road in central Montgomery County.
Hogan, who served as Ehrlich's appointments secretary from 2003 to 2007, noted that the road started out in regional transportation plans in the 1950s as part of an envisioned outer Capital Beltway. But it faced decades of controversy for its cost — ultimately about $2.4 billion — and studies showing that it would significantly harm woodlands, streams and wildlife in its path.
Ehrlich's predecessor, Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) had killed the road project, calling it "an environmental disaster." Ehrlich, 59, campaigned on reviving it.
Hogan didn't rename the road, which runs outside the Beltway between Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg and Route 1 in Prince George's County. ICC motorists will see brown signs saying "Dedicated to Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr."
Asked about the timing of the dedication, Hogan said, "It's something I've thought about for a long time. There's no real magic for the timing right now."
And what about the idea that state roads and bridges seem dedicated most often to fallen state troopers and others who had died? Hogan cited the Senate office building in Annapolis named for longtime Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert).
"Last time I checked," Hogan quipped, "he was very much alive."
Ehrlich credited the ICC's construction to a bipartisan effort, saying, "This is as good as government gets. It's people working together for a common goal."
ICC usage has lagged behind traffic projections made before it was built, and motorists still remark on its relative emptiness compared with other Washington-area roads. Even so, state officials say they base the road's success on overall traffic growth — more than doubling from 30,000 vehicles daily in 2012 to 65,000 vehicles daily.