Some thoughts on the Intercounty Connector

Highway Back

WaPo: Maryland cuts ribbon on new toll road between Shady Grove and Laurel :

WaPo: ICC puts strain on Maryland’s transportation funds

Baltimore Sun: ICC opening to bring regions closer :

"Next month's opening of the main section of the Intercounty Connector linking Interstate 95 with Interstate 270 in Montgomery County is expected to have significant effects on Baltimore's economy as it brings the state's richest job and commercial market a half-hour closer to its largest city.

The debut of the new section Nov. 22 will close the gap between the already opened western section of the ICC and I-95 in Prince George's County. Unlike the first section, which has been mostly used for local traffic, the opening of the new stretch is expected to bring immediate benefits to many Baltimore-area drivers for whom the trip to Rockville or Gaithersburg has long been a traffic nightmare."

I drove the first section this past summer on my periodic visits to Montgomery County. It is a very nice ride, perhaps one of the more pleasant roads to be on. Compared with most long-distance roads on Montgomery County, it does not (yet) suffer congestion (and with tolls, it may almost never). It may even be faster to places like Aspen Hill from Tysons than using surface streets, despite the added distance (and cost).

As a planning question, rather than a subjective ride question, my views are more mixed. I did not work on the road plans when I was at MNCPPC, though we did model it (and tested what would happen with and without, just for fun). Clearly induced demand and induced development applies. Build it and they will come, don't and they won't. That does not of itself mean it is a bad thing, but it will shape development patterns assuming the tolls are not so high as to capture all of the benefits.

Montgomery County has lots of land use controls, so the induced development will, at first be in compliance with existing plans. But as new accessibility creates new value, the pressures to change zoning to accommodate that potential value will intensify. My own sense is the key points are the interchanges at I-95 in PG County, US 29 (itself mostly converted to freeway) and Shady Grove. Maybe not this election, maybe not the next, but at some point. And once that window is opened, facts on the ground will be essentially irreversible.

The other pressures will be to extend eastwards and westwards. I think eastwards (as once proposed to US 301) is more likely, since it is within the state. The flows on to and off of the ICC will inevitably create pressures on upstream and downstream links. Whether those pressures get relieved depends on numerous factors (roads are obviously slow to build and long to unbuild).

The Montrose Parkway, once the Rockville Facility, is a stub that was originally to connect the ICC with I-270 south of Rockville. As the right-of-way for that was turned into Matthew Henson State Park in the early 1990s, it would be difficult to revive. On the other hand, Matthew Henson State Parkway has a nice ring.

David Levinson

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This page contains a single entry by David Levinson published on November 22, 2011 3:19 PM.

Transportation costs too much was the previous entry in this blog.

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