Intercounty Connector Opens

Maryland’s Intercounty Connector opens for traffic today, either one day or 41 years late depending on how you count. The toll road connects Montgomery and Prince George County in the suburbs of Washington, DC, an area that has grown by more than 75 percent since the road was first planned in the 1960s.

Click to download a larger map.

Although only 7.2 miles of the six-lane road opens for traffic today, the full 18.8 miles will open in 2012. At a total cost of $2.6 billion, the road costs an average of about $23 million per mile, which is typical of some urban roads but high for a rural road. About $350 million of the total cost was for environmental mitigation and enhancement.

Despite the DC area’s population growth, the ICC is “the region’s first new major highway in a generation,” thanks mainly to environmental protests against any new roads. State officials were joined by Secretary of Immobility Ray LaHood who said a few words about high-speed rail at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday.

Alan Pisarski, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, remembers that when he moved to the DC area around 1966, people told him not to move to central Montgomery County because “they are building a freeway soon.” And now, he says, “poof–thru the magic of modern transportation planning, only 45 years, later we have half the road done.” The cost of the delay, he says, is incalculable, but he estimates that earlier construction of the facility would have reduced auto fatalities within the corridor by 75 percent, plus saved hundreds of thousands of hours of people’s time and huge amounts of fuel.

Also on display at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were new buses that will begin plying the ICC on March 1. Two new bus routes will be provided by the Maryland state transit agency.

About half the cost of the road was paid for out of federal or state gas taxes, while the other half was covered by bonds that will be repaid by road tolls. Officials anticipate that tolls will also cover the costs of maintenance. All-electronic tolls range from $0.60 at night to $1.15 during peak hours for initial 7.2-mile segment; people without an EasyPass transponder will receive a bill that includes a $3 service charge.

At least some of the length of the road serves undeveloped land that will no doubt eventually be developed as the economy recovers. This undeveloped land is one reason why environmentalists continue to protest the road, although in some cases the protesters are local residents who didn’t want a highway in their backyards.

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23 thoughts on “Intercounty Connector Opens

  1. C. P. Zilliacus

    Cue Etta James’ “At Last:” ICC toll road opens to traffic.

    This highway should have been built decades ago. It has been on planning maps since the 1950′s in various forms. Anti-mobility politicians have repeatedly tried (but failed) to kill the project.

    Because it was not built in the 1960′s or 1970′s, the costs have escalated, as a result of inflation and worldwide demand for building materials.

    But side benefits of those years of delay include:

    (1) Green highway design and construction technology has matured, and the InterCounty Connector may be the greenest highway ever built in the United States.

    (2) High-speed, open road, cashless tolling is now available, and has been implemented for the first time in the eastern United States on this road (North Carolina has similar cashless toll roads under construction or in design (like this one), and Ontario, Canada’s Highway 407, which was the first cashless toll road in North America, dates to the late 1990′s).

  2. JimKarlock

    Of course sprawl is good!

    It provides more living space.
    It lets people escape the corrupt, crime ridden, over taxed central cities.
    It lets people have large yards, so the kids can play at home instead of a park.
    It improves people’s standard of living by reducing people’s cost of housing.
    Contrary to the greenie’s lies, people living in sprawl don’t drive much more because most DON’T work in the central city.

    Thanks
    JK

  3. metrosucks

    Some good points so far this morning. I’m interested to see if Dan and/or msetty will provide anything useful, or will merely use the opportunity to snipe and whine about the evil car drivers.

  4. Andrew

    Antiplanner:

    Your numbers above don’t make sense.

    $2.6 billion for 18.8 miles is $138.3 million per mile of road. Maybe you meant $23 million per lane mile asusming 6 lanes the whole length?

    Its not a high cost for a “rural” road around the northeast (I would dispute that anything within 40 miles of DC is rural). As you can see from the photos, we have something called topography around here, unlike in Texas or Illinois. This requires massive earthwork cuts and fills for most of the length of anything being built, which is the main driver in the time it takes these roads to be constructed.

    I have to wonder if the tolls as stated can amortize half the construction and all future maintenance. Assuming a reasonable amount of traffic such as 100,000 daily trips on the road producing $2.50 each would produce around $75 million annually. Its difficult to see how that would retire $1.3 billion and pay for maintenance. Interest on the debt alone has to be upwards of $50 million.

  5. Andrew

    Jim Karlock:

    “It lets people have large yards, so the kids can play at home instead of a park.”

    That is a really sad anti-social trend in our society, which inhibits parents from meeting each other at the park and becoming friends and kids from playing outside the family with other kids on their own. This becomes a driving force behind helicopter parenting and the parental taxi service, which waste so much time of adults for no discernable benefit. There is no reason kids over the age of 8 (3rd grade and up) can’t get out on their own into a gradually expanding sphere of where they are capable of travelling on their own by foot, bike and public transit and learn to be independent and exercise judgement about other people and driver/vehicle bahavior. Those of us who grew up before the closed campus school lockdowns of the 1990′s certainly did that.

    “It improves people’s standard of living by reducing people’s cost of housing.”

    How? New houses are invariably more expensive than similar sized older houses. It seems to me that a lot of new sprawl housing is townhouses because the builders need to provide cheap housing normal people can actually afford, which is funny because they come with microscopic lots that people were supposedly fleeing inner suburbs and cities to get away from.

    “Contrary to the greenie’s lies, people living in sprawl don’t drive much more because most DON’T work in the central city.”

    No, they don’t drive for longer amounts of time. They do drive more because travel speed in exurban areas is higher than inner suburb and urban areas. Most people who commute (as opposed to the ~10% living very near to their office or business) like to travel about 20-35 minutes in their daily commute. If this can be done at 45 mph instead of 15 mph, obviously the distance traveled can be much higher. And of course, many people working in central cities don’t drive at all because they use transit.

  6. Dan

    And from the Examiner, there’s this about “sprawl” that might be “induced” by the highway:

    AIUI and as the article states, if there is no infra there you can’t build.

    DS

  7. C. P. Zilliacus

    Dan wrote:

    AIUI and as the article states, if there is no infra there you can’t build.

    More to the point, along most of the ICC that is now open to traffic, there have long been plans in place to keep the housing density very l-o-w according to the bicounty Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s master plan documents.

    But development along the ICC corridor (within about 3 to 5 miles of each interchange) that was approved by the M-NCP&PC (in both Montgomery County and Prince George’s County) since the 1970′s has assumed that this highway would be there.

  8. Nodrog

    I see that “JK”, aka Portland’s “Jim Karlock,” is spreading his lies on this site now as well as all the others he infests.

    What “JK” the libertarian doesn’t understand is that the move away from suburbia toward living in higher density surroundings is one that is driven by FREE CHOICE.

    More and more people now believe that the suburban dream of a large inexpensive house on a large plot of land is a chimera. This despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of such houses remain available to those who want that lifestyle, and, despite his jeremiads, thousands of such new houses get built every year.

    Even more importantly, a smaller and smaller percentage of American households actually fit the nuclear family stereotype so beloved those like JK. Empty nesters, DINK’s, single-parent families, same-sex couples, etc. don’t have the same interest in the house in the suburbs, and never will.

    People like JK make the same mistake that the urban planning ideologues make, in reverse. Both sides want to deny true and varied housing choice because of their rigid ideologies. The answer is tell both sides to “go to hell” and let choice, true choice, dictate what kind of housing gets built in our nation today.

  9. Dan

    CPZ, I live across the country so cannot comment except on provided info. The linked article states that there is no infra (meaning sewer-water) and one development at ~8.5 DU/ac (apparently that is low). The arty also states – keeping in mind that you claim the Master Plan wants low density – that redev is encouraged and that developers don’t want a zoning fight to develop on that land.

    Merely commenting on the info provided, looks like these particular developers in those parts want higher density than what is zoned to make their target rate of return. I don’t know anyone there so can’t e-mail to confirm. Just going off of past conference input, esp one in Baltimore several years ago.

    DS

  10. Andrew

    CPZ:

    What a revolution it would be if developers could simply build whatever housing density (and the associated infrastructure) the market wants without needing to go through zoning contortions or adhere to some Master Plan.

    You would think if they weren’t latched onto the public teat and were willing to build the roads and sewer that this could happen. Welll aybe not in the PDR of Maryland.

  11. Andrew

    Dan and CPZ:

    How is 8.5 DU/acre low?

    I live in what is considered a normally dense incoporated town in Pennsylvania and my house is built on 1/5 of an acre, while some neighbors have 1/4 acre lots and others have 1/8 acre lots.

    8.5 units per acre sounds like an urban rowhouse development type density! Its only precluding apartment construction.

  12. prk166

    “It lets people have large yards, so the kids can play at home instead of a park.”
    “That is a really sad anti-social trend in our society,”- Andrew

    My playing with the neighbor kids in their large yard or in my parents large yard was quite social. We didn’t need to be forced to a park to be social.

  13. Borealis

    I 99% agree with Jim Karlock:

    There is no reason kids over the age of 8 (3rd grade and up) can’t get out on their own into a gradually expanding sphere of where they are capable of travelling on their own by foot, bike and public transit and learn to be independent and exercise judgement about other people and driver/vehicle bahavior. Those of us who grew up before the closed campus school lockdowns of the 1990?s certainly did that.

    The exception is that just ain’t how the world works anymore. It is practically child abuse to have your kid ride a bike a half mile to school. Schools have to retrofitted with huge parent pick up areas because less than half the kids will ride the bus. The few that do ride the bus have their parents escort them to and from the bus stop.

    Today’s state child protection services would have taken Jim Karlock (and myself) away from our dangerous families.

  14. Nodrog

    JK’s comments reflect a fundamental anti-choice ideology as rigid and uncompromising as any promoted by a “new urbanist.” He cannot comprehend that an increasing majority of American households are not two-parent families with children, the primary generator of the suburban housing market. While the mushrooming number of alternative households, including single-parent families, singles, DINK’s, same-sex couples, older couples, among others, include some who want to maintain a single-family residential lifestyle, these types of families tend to gravitate to living at more urban densities.

    JK’s pro-sprawl mantra would deny them that choice.

  15. Dan

    Schools have to retrofitted with huge parent pick up areas because less than half the kids will ride the bus. The few that do ride the bus have their parents escort them to and from the bus stop.

    When our kid started kindergarten, she was one of the few to walk to school. And I’d pick her up on my bike, carrying hers. There are a few parents picking up the young’uns now, and a few more kids walk home, but it is almost breathtaking to see the number of cars picking up their little weak flowers so they don’t have that debilitating, soul-crushing 15-minute walk. And they sit there for 15 minutes, idling. When I was in elementary school, we thought it was the wierdest thing in the world that the one girl got driven every day from a distance that was 1/3 my walk.[/rant]

    DS

  16. Frank

    How is this road any different from building the Interstate Highway System? That cost half a trillion (in ’96 dollars), took 35 years to complete, and cost 4.5 times as much as originally projected. It was primarily built to deploy tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and ICBMs at a cost of over $3 trillion (in ’96 dollars). If you add up the real cost of the IHS, it’s closer to 4 trillion. Maybe more factoring environmental damage. I just don’t see how the IHS is different than this project. Some please explain the differences.

    “…in some cases the protesters are local residents who didn’t want a highway in their backyards.”

    Sounds like the IHS to me. How many people protested the interstate slicing up Portland’s Hollywood District or Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood?

    I could go on comparing the two, but it’s time to eat.

  17. the highwayman

    Nodrog, of course Karlock(as well as O’Toole) are spreading lies.

    Suburbs don’t have to be built as hostile places to pedestrians & public transit.

    Though Karlock & O’Toole some how think that suburban trains are hostile to suburbia!

  18. Andrew

    Highwayman:

    “Though Karlock & O’Toole some how think that suburban trains are hostile to suburbia!”

    Streetcars and trains and the corporations that ran them literally developed and invented the concept of the modern suburb with platt books, single family homes, and typical lot sizes of 1/5 acre and up.

    Its actually the car that is hostile to suburbia, fostering as it does what is really rural sprawl and disjointed and atomized development where mobility in space is impractical in anything except a car.

    Its almost certainly illegal and impossible to incorporate and build a true traditional suburb like Newtown, MA, Hartsdale, NY, Narberth, PA, Winnetka, IL, Sewickley, PA, Palo Alto, CA, Rockville, MD, etc.

  19. Andrew

    Borealis and Dan:

    The parental school drivers are near freaks in my mind. The main reason we need crossing guards is the parental drivers who swarm the school at 8am and 3pm every day.

    Its truly bizzarre behavior to be afraid of letting your kid walk 10 minutes in town, and its even more bizzarre as a kid to want to be picked up by your parents unless there were a hurricane force rainstorm. Getting to ride public transit to high school or middle school meant you could also use it to make a detour to go where you wanted in the afternoon before your parents got home.

    When I was growing up, we all craved the independence of being allowed to go out on our own and have the run of the town. In high school we used to walk to each other’s houses or down to the deli during lunch. In elementary school just outside of the city but really out in the country in terms of development when we weren’t playing suicide and smear the queer we ran about in the surrounding woods and neighboring properties playing manhunt. My parents thought it was a great idea when a friend and I wanted to bike 8 miles to school one day and let us do it (there was a bike path most of the way).

    Now kids aren’t even allowed out for recess if it is “too” cold or there is any snow (why they might do something crazy like have a snowball fight or go sledding!), the building is locked down at lunch and many are patrolled by police officers. God forbid you carry a knife like I used to and still do.

    Its funny, my dad and his brothers drove the elementary school school bus in their town once they turned 16, the moms stayed home and played bridge or had guests over for tea and the dads were at work. Now this is a full time job for “professionals”, but no one wants their kid to be on it because the moms want to hover over their poor little dears and shuttle them everywhere instead of socializing, and many of the dads seem to be unemployed or on some sort of disability leave instead of providing for their families.

    What a screwed up world we’ve got now.

  20. Dan

    Andrew, a while ago now several of these dysfunctional moron parents were in a dim-bulb hurry in their moron cars on their moron phones and weren’t paying attention to my child in the street when I was present. I’m quite sure they got a phone call or ticket from the nice police officer, and ever since the word obviously got around that children should be safe from low-functioning morons in moron vehicles when walking near our school at predictable times, there have been few preventable conflicts. We try to turn these incidents into non-judgmental teachable moments for the kid after we calm down.

    But I will say several weeks ago we judged the Den Public School regional science fair at the zoo, and it was wonderful to see that the kids were fantastic, had their sh– down and afterward all of us judges were hopeful for the future. Great day. Getting the kids away from the parents is key, in my view.

    DS

  21. Borealis

    To me, the ultimate insult to free range kids is the SUV with TWO TV screens for the kids, because it is of course child abuse if you force your kids have to watch the same TV show while they ride in what is essentially an armored tank on there way home from school.

    And people wonder why ADD is suddenly an epidemic….

    No wonder city parks are empty except for city-organized and insured sporting events where no team wins or loses.

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