The authors note correctly that — contrary to the “spin” we often hear from anti-road activists — tens of thousands of people are using the Intercounty Connector (ICC) every day. In fact, more passengers are traveling on the ICC each day than on the much more expensive Silver Line, traffic on the parallel section of the Beltway has dropped 8% since the ICC opened, and significant traffic relief is already being felt on surrounding local roads. It is clearly a big success. The question is, what’s next?
The idea of future extensions of the ICC — both to the west, into Northern Virginia, and to the east, to Route 50 in Prince George’s County are both worth exploring. The economic benefits from tying our region together with a more efficient highway network could be extremely significant, and it would open up new possibilities for a truly regional bus-rapid transit network using the new capacity.
What do you think? Give the article a read and share your comments here. Does extending the ICC across the Potomac and over to Route 50 make sense to you? What other priorities should we also be looking at that could deliver the same kind of game-changing impacts on congestion and overall transportation network performance across the Washington region? Let us know.
New Interchange in Prince George’s County also Set to Open by Monday
The InterCounty Connector, or ICC, will soon be open all the way from the I-270 corridor to Route 1 in Prince George’s County.
More details are provided in the update below from the Maryland Transportation Authority.
FINAL SECTION OF ICC AND NEW INTERCHANGE IN PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY TO OPEN BY MONDAYProcess to Fully Open Both Roadways Starts Friday Evening Motorists are Urged to Pay Attention to New Traffic Patterns Beginning Friday evening, November 7, crews will begin opening the final section of the Intercounty Connector (ICC) / MD 200 to US 1 in Prince George’s County. During this same time, crews also will begin opening the I-95 / Konterra Drive (formerly Contee Road) Interchange, located between the ICC and MD 198. Both the ICC and the new interchange will open to traffic by morning rush hour on Monday, November 10, weather permitting.
The last segment of the ICC extends 1.5 miles from I-95 to US 1 in Laurel. This project also includes a partial interchange at Konterra Drive and a signalized intersection at US 1 near the MARC commuter station on Muirkirk Road. Commuters will have improved access to the Muirkirk MARC Station by traveling eastbound on the ICC/MD 200 to Konterra Drive (Exit 20), turn right, then left at the traffic signal on Muirkirk Road over US 1 to a left into the entrance for the MARC station. The final ICC contract included improvements to I-95 to create new collector-distributor (CD) lanes for access to and from the new Konterra Drive, the ICC and MD 198 interchanges (see project map). Simultaneous to the opening of the final segment of the ICC, SHA will open a new I-95 interchange at Konterra Drive.
Motorists should use caution when traveling through the area over the weekend as crews will open the connecting ramps, roads and CD lanes in phases. Drivers are urged to follow signs, watch for construction crews and prepare for new traffic patterns. For more information about using the ICC and signing up for E-ZPass, visit www.mdta.maryland.gov and for more information about the ICC project visit www.iccproject.com and for state highways, visit www.roads.maryland.gov. For Statewide traffic conditions, visit md511.org. For the most up-to-date information follow us on Twitter at TheMDTA or on Facebook at facebook.com/TheMDTA.
This is a message from the Maryland Transportation Authority.
Today the long-awaited Inter County Connector opened to the public, performing exactly as traffic models predicted according to an informal “challenge” SMTA members offered to the media.
In today’s ICC Challenge, SMTA Chair Doug Duncan and several Board members invited local media outlets to join us as we split into teams to travel from Gaithersburg to Laurel, with some taking the new ICC, some traveling south on I-270 to the Beltway then out I-95, and some taking parallel local roads all the way across (Muncaster Mill, Norbeck, Routes 28/198).
The results (travel times in minutes):
270-Beltway-95: 51 Minutes
Local roads (28/198 etc.): 45 Minutes
ICC (following the 55 mph posted speed exactly): 27 Minutes
Despite the poor weather, we succeeded in doing something no one has been able to do in most of our lifetimes: travel from Gaithersburg to Laurel in under a half-hour. If anything, the differences in our test were understated due to the lower rush hour traffic volumes this holiday week, and because our unscientific “challenge” was run against the heavier east-to-west flows in the morning rush. The Beltway trip, in particular, would have been well over an hour had we gone the other way (westbound traffic on I-495 was stop-and-go most of the way, while the eastbound traffic our Beltway team experienced was unusually light). Even with all this, the real-world results still were right in line with projections.
Traffic modeling studies have always shown the ICC would cut travel times in this heavily congested corridor by nearly 50%, and the real world experience we saw today certainly confirms those findings. It would appear those who claimed the ICC would make no difference have some explaining to do.
As it turns out, we can “build our way” out of congestion, just as we did with the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, if we are smart about adding the right kind of road and transit capacity where it is needed most, and listen to what the study data show works best when it comes to providing real traffic relief.
Facts on the ground are powerful things.
Washington Post columnist Robert Thompson’s column Maryland Drivers Face Many Mini-Challenges draws a pretty stark contrast between the levels of major investment in congestion relief taking place in Virginia compared to Maryland.
Northern Virginia is currently in construction on two multi-billion-dollar “mega projects” — the Metrorail extension to Dulles Airport and adding new lane capacity to their portion of the Capital Beltway (I-495) with additional high-occupancy-toll (HOT) lanes. Both are being funded with a mix of public and private capital. Additional capacity expansion projects are also either planned or starting construction in the I-95/395 corridor and the I-66 corridor, and construction is nearing completion on the last phase of the Wilson Bridge replacement project.
Maryland is building the ICC. That’s about it right now in terms of major capacity improvements at the regional level. The Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway, the much needed widening of I-270 and portions of our side of the Capital Beltway and the American Legion Bridge all are under “study” but those studies keep dragging on and on with no sign of construction in the near term, and no moves yet to ensure that any of them can be funded.
What we are doing, as Thompson’s column makes clear, is a lot of minor resurfacing and repair projects throughout Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. These are important, make no mistake, but don’t confuse this list of “mini” projects with actual investments to relieve the chronic congestion that plagues our region. For that, just look to Virginia.
As of March 7th, the free ride on the ICC comes to an unfortunate end. The new toll rates are included in this fact sheet from the Maryland Transportation Authority, the agency now operating the InterCounty Connector. Also included is information on EZ-Pass, clearly something you’ll want to do if you plan to use the ICC regularly.
Much discussion has taken place in recent years about the pricing of the tolls, which is higher than many would like. While the rates are higher than many older toll facilities that long-ago paid off all their construction costs, if it is any comfort, they are in line with other new toll facilities in terms of the cost per mile. State officials are saying the adjustable rates on the ICC will be changed up or down depending on how many people are using it, in order to maximize revenue and divert as many motorists as possible off surrounding streets. We won’t really know the real impact until the whole facility is open, of course.
Though some continue to whine about the fact that there are tolls, I continue to see very little in the way of honesty or ownership regarding whose fault that really is. Some of the blame clearly lies at the feet of those who blocked the road for so many years — and the politicians who dared not cross them — despite the lack of any viable alternative. Had the ICC had been built when it was planned (around 1980), it would have saved Maryland taxpayers around $2 billion and would not have required ANY tolls. The big lesson here: Delay is expensive. Now we have to pay for it.
After 56 years of study and debate, the first segment of the Inter County Connector (ICC) is now open and traffic on opening day exceeded expectations, with some 36,500 vehicles test-driving the first major new limited-access highway built in Montgomery County since 1967 on day one. The first completed segment of the ICC runs from I-370 near Shady Grove Road across Georgia Avenue, and ends at a temporary exit onto Norbeck Road just east of Georgia Avenue.
When completed, the ICC will connect two of Maryland’s key employment corridors and reduce travel times between I-270 and I-95 by roughly half. The time savings are already apparent. In my first real trip on the ICC, other than a ceremonial drive just for the fun of it on opening day, I used the ICC to get from Rockville Pike near Shady Grove Road to a meeting in Olney. This trip from Shady Grove Road to Georgia Avenue used to take about 30-35 minutes, depending upon traffic and lights, but this time it took about 7 minutes. Imagine how much more accessible the two counties spanned by the ICC will be, from east to west, when the entire project is complete. The full ICC should be open in the next year.
It will be interesting to see, once the whole project is complete and the tolls are operational, how many people use it on a daily basis. With just the first segment open, it is much too early to draw any conclusions. However, if it performs as the traffic models indicate, there will be significant traffic diverted off crowded local roads and dramatic improvements in congestion levels at dozens of intersections across this highly traveled corridor. While other recent projects have performed exactly as the models predicted (Montrose Parkway and the Wilson Bridge come to mind), we shall all have to wait and see if the ICC does the same.
For more information, see local coverage on Patch.com here.
Transportation funding remains a key issue in Maryland this year. Tell your legislators to Invest Now!