Maryland's Inter County Connector to open fully Nov 22 - linking two interstates
Harold Bartlett executive secretary of MDTA, Maryland's toll authority tells us he's excited about what they and the State Highway Administration have achieved and feels entitled to "blow our trumpet a bit" to tell the world.
"We're opening a very complicated, difficult and large project on schedule and slightly under budget," he says of the $2.56 billion Inter County Connector (ICC) tollroad. "I don't think that claim can be made about many projects of this magnitude."
Bartlett says he drove the road the other day and was struck by how beautiful and parklike it is: "I think people will enjoy driving it."
November 22 they'll have in operation the great bulk of the 18.8 mile, 30.3km 2 x 3 lane highway linking the two major radial interstates I-270 and I-95, radically improving mobility east-west across the northern part of the Washington DC metro area.
The major Maryland commercial and residential centers around Gaithersburg and Rockville will have hugely improved connectivity to I-95, Columbia, Baltimore and the heavy concentration of workplaces around Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI.)
MdTA chairman Beverley Swaim-Staley is quoted as saying the new route provides a "viable option to the existing congested local road network" in Maryland’s northern Washington suburbs.
22 to 48 minute timesavings in peakhours
On existing surface roads the 19 mile trip Gaithersburg to Laurel takes 45 to 50 minutes.
Making the 23 mile 'U-trip' south to the Beltway I-495 can take between 40 minutes and more than an hour.
On the ICC the trip takes 17 to 18 minutes and will be a no-hassle, free flow trip. So time saving should be int he range 22 to 48 minutes, or an average of about half an hour.
The first segment (Contract A) of the ICC opened February 23, 2011 connecting the small I-370 spur off I-270 to Georgia Avenue MD97 - 7.2 mainline miles and three interchanges. The second segment (Contracts B & C) from MD97 to I-95 opening November 22 comprise 10.7 mainline miles.
Design-build cost of the first segment was $479m and the second segment $1074m. The first DB team was led by Granite and the second by Kiewit (Contract B) and by Shirley (Contract C). Bartlett told us that competitive pricing plus good management of the construction should allow them to move forward soon on the third and last segment of the project which adds collector distributor-lanes 2.4 miles up I-95 from the ICC ramps and repaves I-95 in the vicinity (Contract D) and does a short 0.9 mile extension of the ICC from I-95 east to US1 (Contract E.)
No tolls for 2 weeks
There will be no tolls collected on the ICC from the opening Nov 22 to Dec 4 to encourage motorists to try it, and also to test toll equipment. Toll systems were designed and built and will be maintained by Xerox/ACS.
There are six toll points, all-electronic and full highway speed with the familiar combination of (1) in-pavement electromagnetic loops for vehicle detection, classification and tracking (2) antennas and readers for E-ZPass transponders on vehicle windshields (3) front and rear oriented cameras to image license plates of vehicles without the transponder.
The system is designed for easy conversion to dynamic pricing but at 6 lanes the road is unlikely to need that for some years.
Tolls for cars with the E-ZPass transponder for the full 19 miles will be $4.00 in peakhours 0600-0900 and 1600-1900 weekdays, $3.20 daytime off-peak and weekend and $1.60 overnight 2300-0500. People will use the pike who value their time at more than $8.00 an hour given an average half hour time savings.
Motorists without a transponder will pay a 50% premium (minimum $1.00 premium) for a 'video toll.' So No-E-ZPass tolls for weekday peakhours will be $6.00, off-peak day $4.80, overnight $2.60. (CORRECTION)
Traffic has been around 15,000 a day weekdays and 11,000 daily at weekends on the open segment to MD97.
Bartlett told us they expect initial traffic with tolls to be around 25,000/day building to 35,000 in six to 12 months.