Celebration in Maryland as new pike opens fully - ICC links I-95 to the heart of Montgomery Co
It was London weather, fog, drizzle, persistent light rain, a day without the sun, Tuesday Nov 22, but Marylanders in Montgomery Co, the state's most populous county immediately north of the District of Colombia, celebrated. They'd overcome the naysayers, the 'green' obstructionists who put the supposed needs of fish or fowl ahead of people… this crew had lost out in the opening in the early hours of Tuesday morning of the 19 mile long 2x3 lane toll expressway known as the Inter County Connector (ICC.) Officially it is now MD200.
They told the story Tuesday of how the Environmental Defense Fund's Michael Replogle had declared to leading senior elected officials ten years ago: "You are wasting your breath (advocating the ICC), we'll make sure it never gets built."
They tried everything to stop it - repeated lawsuits, heavy lobbying and sustained scaremongering - but they failed.
Finally there's a direct east-west connector of I-270 and Montgomery County with I-95 and Prince George's County and a way for the people of Gaithersburg and Rockville to drive comfortably and directly to BWI airport, to Columbia, to Baltimore and points northeast to Philadelphia or New York or east to Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore. Until now they have had the lousy alternatives of looping south to the crowded Capital Beltway or traveling at 15mph on a disjointed network of 2-lane local roads that wind their way through Montgomery County shopping centers and past thousands of driveways and schools and businesses - waiting through twenty or so sets of traffic signals.
Chief very happy
Harold Bartlett, chief executive of the Maryland (Toll) Transportation Authority (MdTA) told us today in a telephone interview that the public reaction after a second day open has been "overwhelmingly positive."
"I'm very very happy," Bartlett said. "Everything is working perfectly (on the road). We're hearing how people love it and how it makes their journeys so much less stressful."
Bartlett says he enjoys the ICC a great deal himself in his own daily commute from Montgomery County to the MdTA offices in Baltimore. Until this week he drove Olney-Laytonsville Rd MD108 through Olney and MD198 Spencerville Rd/Sandy Spring Road through Burtonsville. Because he lives a bit to the north of the ICC using it adds several miles to his trip, but he says it saves at least ten minutes.
Best of all he says "it is so relaxing" to drive the new expressway versus all the slow local roads.
And he says the benefits are being felt not only by those on the new pike but people making local trips on the surface routes who now won't have to deal with the through-traffic.
"I'm sure we'll look back at this and say: how could we have done without it?"
There's a short extension planned from I-95 to parallel US1 and some work along I-95 itself to ease the merges. Bartlett says that by keeping the big part of the project on budget they have the funds available to move forward with the US1 extension quite soon. They already have bids, and he says, they all fit within the original budget and the funds available.
The Baltimore Sun today echoed the celebratory mood with the headline: "Drivers rejoice as ICC cuts Laurel to Gaithersburg travel in half."
They quoted Lon Anderson of AAA Mid Atlantic: "This is a transportation miracle. You can't believe it until you drive it — Gaithersburg to Laurel in 20 minutes."
Longtime supporters of the new pike staged a road race: one bunch driving their old local roads routes, another doing the loop to the Beltway, and another bunch using the ICC.
As the Sun reported: "The ICC lived up to its hype, delivering its drivers to the finish line more than 20 minutes quicker."
They quoted Emmet Tydings, owner of a Gaithersburg telecom company, who said gridlock on the Capital Beltway scared off job applicants from the Baltimore area. He was forced to split his business and open an office in Columbia.
The ICC will allow him to tap into a larger talent pool and cut the travel time between his two offices.
Tydings: "It's jobs, it's time. My dog in this fight is economic development, and you won't have economic development with congestion."
Travel times "halved"
The Washington Post was also positive about the new road saying cut common travel times in half. It quoted Rich Parsons, a longtime advocate: "I did something today that I’ve never done in my life, which is to travel across Montgomery County in a half-hour."
The Post wrote: "Parsons said he drove the ICC from a Marriott along I-270 in Gaithersburg to a Holiday Inn at I-95 and Route 198 in Laurel in 29 minutes between 7:30am and 8am. Others in the group said they took about 45 minutes on local roads, including Norbeck and Muncaster Mill roads, and about 50 minutes to travel via I-270 and the Capital Beltway.
"Driving the ICC between I-270 and I-95 took a reporter 20 minutes each way about 7am."
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has said: "The ICC has sweeping economic benefits, including shorter commutes, improved access to BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport for both freight and passengers, and greater access to affordable housing and jobs. It will provide safer travel for communities long overburdened with cross-county traffic on their local roads.
"The ICC will keep us moving, quite literally, toward a Smart, Green and Growing future for our One Maryland. I am energized about what the ICC will do for Maryland and, most importantly, for each Marylander who uses it."
Fish, fowl and deer also catered to
Interestingly the new highway - unlike the old roads - is built to minimize impacts on fish and fowl and deer. It has long bridging of watercourses and wildlife runs, and elaborately engineered storm water retention ponds and sediment control to help fish. And not only are there fences to attempt to keep deer off the road, but also, should they get in, grassed 'jump mounds' inside to help them leap the fence out.
Much of the road is in a pleasant parkland setting. About ten percent of the $2.3b budget for this road went into environmental measures.
Tolls begin Dec 5
For now travel on the ICC is free - an introductory period to allow motorists to try the road, and the opportunity for ACS to fine-tune the toll equipment and systems with live traffic.
Tolls are scheduled to begin December 5.
Contract A Intercounty Constructors, a joint venture of Granite Construction Company, Corman Construction, Inc., and G.A. & F.C. Wagman, Inc.
Contract B MD200 Constructors MD200 Constructors, a joint venture of Kiewit Southern Co., G.A. & F.C. Wagman, Inc. and Corman Construction, Inc
Contract C: IC3: Shirley Contracting Company, LLC, Clark Construction Group, LLC, Atkinson Construction Company, LLC, Facchina Construction Company, Inc., and Trumbull Corporation. The Team's lead design firm, providing overall project design coordination and management, is Dewberry & Davis, LLC.
official websites on ICC: