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.