Gov. O’Malley, County Leaders Open ICC With Promises of Jobs and Purple Line
Representatives from Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, along with state legislators, joined Gov. O’Malley in opening the first stretch of the 18-mile road.
Maryland leaders past and present gathered in the rain on Monday to cut a ceremonial green ribbon, opening the first segment of the Intercounty Connector, which will eventually connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
Officials say the new toll road is just the beginning of a push toward major improvement in transportation in Washington’s Maryland suburbs.
Detractors call the road that will link Interstate 370 and Interstate 95 unnecessary and a drain on the environment but lawmakers stressed that it is a necessary part of other badly needed big-ticket transit projects in the area.
“It’s bigger than a road, it really is,” Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) told the crowd of about 200 gathered at the ICC/MD200 intersection in Gaithersburg to mark the opening of the first 5.5 miles of the east-west highway, from Shady Grove Road to Georgia Avenue. The ICC is the state’s first all-electronic toll road.
“We do believe that this road, this project and others such as the Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway and the Red Line make up a larger plan,” Brown said.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) used the occasion to stump for additions to the region’s mass transit systems.
“Make certain that not only we have the ICC today, but tomorrow we have the Purple Line, we have the Corridor Cities Transitway and then we have Montrose East,” he said. “I said four years ago that I believe that we needed to move those transportation projects. ... We need a gasoline tax in the state of Maryland to help us here in Montgomery County and throughout the state of Maryland to make sure we get these projects built.”
The road’s construction and the continued focus on cars versus public transportation have drawn the ire of environmentalists, and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) acknowledged the dissent but said the road was built with the environment in mind.
“There have been some rough times in terms of what it took to get this road completed,” he said. “A lot of passionate, heartfelt conversations and debates about whether or not we should even build it, but when we decided to build it, we wanted to build it well. We wanted to build it with the best in environmental engineering.”
“This road has also created jobs,” O’Malley continued. “Not only the 4,500 construction jobs. ... The University of Maryland study says 14,000 jobs in Montgomery and Prince George’s County will be created by this.”
He echoed Brown in saying the ICC was part of a larger plan. “This is part of a broader and larger transportation vision, one that balances not only roads but also mass transit, like the Red Line, like the Purple Line, and I think all of us can applaud the Obama administration for its commitment to high-speed rail.”
The ICC will feature its own Bus Rapid Transit program, with commuter buses traveling to and from Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Fort Meade and various park-and-rides and Metro stations throughout the Northern part of the county.
But for all the praise that leaders, workers and supporters gave, residents not happy with the road came out to voice their frustration, albeit in small numbers.
Kim Carlisle, who stood along the road with two fellow residents carrying protest signs, said she learned of plans for the ICC approximately 26 years ago, the day after she moved into her home in Derwood. Parts of the road run right behind her home, she said.
“This was totally unnecessary,” she said. “If you want to get people out of their cars and save the environment, you don’t build roads that depend on cars to travel them and a toll that nobody wants to pay.
“This is the first and last time I’ll ever be on the ICC,” Carlisle said.
Former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, whom Leggett credited with moving the project forward, said there will come a day when no one will remember why they opposed the ICC.
“It’s one of those things that’s very controversial, but when it’s up and running, everybody supports it,” Duncan told Patch. “Once something’s built and people start using it and realize what a difference it makes in their lives, they’re going to say, ‘How did we live without it?’”
Although the fanfare took place in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County’s portion of the ICC is expected to open next year.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker threw his support behind what he said would be the road’s ability to encourage economic growth.
“Somebody asked me this when I was in the House, ‘Don’t you think this is taking jobs away from Prince George’s County?’” he told the crowd. “No, this is moving jobs to Prince George’s County. This is about cooperation. This is about Prince George’s County, Montgomery County and this region doing something that we should have done long ago, and that is to make it easier for us to get back and forth.
“Yes, we’re going to do the Purple Line. Yes, we’re going to do other transit, but this is a step in that direction,” Baker continued. “If we’re going to grow the economy the way it should grow, this is a vital step, and I am glad that Prince George’s County is playing a role.”
The first part of the Intercounty Connector, at I-370 at Shady Grove and extending east to Georgia Avenue, will open for a test-drive period on Feb. 23 at 6 a.m. Tolls of 60 cents to $1.45 will kick in for cars on March 27. All tolls will be collected using E-ZPass technology, and drivers without an E-Z Pass will incur a $3 service charge.