- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

State and area officials on both sides of the Intercounty Connector debate yesterday faced off again over the proposed highway between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, designed to ease traffic and bolster the local economy.

“The ICC is going to improve regional mobility for more than 133,000 people a day,” Robert L. Flanagan, state transportation secretary under Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said during the forum, titled “How the Intercounty Connector Will Affect Business.”

This was the second public forum sponsored by The Washington Times Corp.

Mr. Flanagan said a University of Maryland study shows the estimated $2.1 billion highway would spur job growth and become a gateway to the Port of Baltimore and the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

He also said the highway — from Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg to Interstate 95 in Laurel — would ease congestion on the Capital Beltway and include high-speed toll collection and an express bus service.

Prince George’s County Council member Thomas Dernoga, a Democrat, said the east-west highway would just create more traffic problems in Prince George’s County because secondary roads cannot accommodate the overflow of vehicles it would bring.

“With the ICC, I would still be stuck on the Beltway because it doesn’t do anything for the Beltway,” Mr. Dernoga told an estimated 60 persons who attended the forum at the Greenbelt Marriott hotel.

He said the county’s transportation system would fail and job growth would be further constrained without improvement to such roads as Interstate 95 and Route 1.

The Interstate 95-Contee Road Interchange would cost about $450 million and improvements to Route One inside the Beltway would cost about $100 million.

He also questioned whether projected job-growth numbers were for real jobs or just “illusory” ones to support the highway project.

The proposed 18-mile highway has been debated, studied, planned, reviewed, revised and challenged since the 1960s. Various officials have pushed for the highway to ease some of the region’s traffic problems, but environmental concerns have kept it in the planning stages.

Construction on the highway was stalled for 10 years until the Montgomery County Council commissioned an environmental-impact study in 2002.

An environmental-impact study started by the Maryland State Highway Administration in 1992 was halted by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, in 1998 during his re-election campaign.

However, the state will soon complete an environmental-impact study that it will submit to the Federal Highway Administration, and road construction is slated to begin next year. County and state governments have already bought land along the proposed route.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, announced in July that he wanted the highway to be completed in five years along a southern route, similar to the one in Montgomery County’s 40-year-old master plans.

The highway would also include interchanges with several major roadways, including Georgia Avenue and Columbia Pike.

Other supporters participating in the panel discussion yesterday were Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce member Richard Parsons; Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce President-elect William Shipp and Neil Pederson, state highway administrator.

Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson could not attend the forum. He was represented by Kwasi Holman, president of the county’s economic development corporation.

Opponents of the highway on the panel were Robert Boone, president of the Anacostia Watershed Society; Brian Henry, director of the Audubon Naturalist Society; and Greenbelt Mayor Judith F. Davis.

Attendees included Montgomery County Council members Nancy Floreen and Michael Knapp and Prince George’s County Council member Thomas R. Hendershot, all Democrats.

Several Democratic state delegates from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties also attended. The Montgomery County lawmakers included Henry B. Heller, Herman L. Taylor Jr. and Gareth E. Murray. From Prince George’s County were Tawanna P. Gains, Marvin E. Holmes Jr., Brian R. Moe and Carolyn J.B. Howard.

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