- The Washington Times - Friday, December 27, 2002

Montgomery County has received an F on a report card issued by its Economic Advisory Council for failing to implement such transportation projects as the Intercounty Connector.
The 2001 report stated that an "inadequate" transportation system created more pollution, discouraged families and merchants from moving there, and resulted in an "enormous cost" to the county.
The report was prepared by the Economic Development Report Card Committee, which is appointed by the Economic Advisory Council and is led by Mahlon Straszheim, chairman of the University of Maryland Economics Department.
The seven committee members are part of the business community and meet several times a year to review the county's actions and give officials "a good read from the private sector," said Richard Parsons, a committee member and president of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.
He also said yesterday that the committee has long supported the Intercounty Connector.
"It has been part of [the countys] master plan for 40 years," Mr. Parsons said. "It's a common-sense decision. Study after study shows the need, and so did the last elections."
He also said the committee does not advocate government spending, but that the county clearly has not spent enough on transportation.
"What we want is for the county to make the right choices on such issues as transportation and spending," he said.
The report also stated that "transportation demand is increasing even in the absence of more jobs or more residents. Improved service is a reasonable expectation of existing residents and firms, even if there were no future growth in economic activity."
The group graded the county's economic performance in five general categories, including employment conditions, business environment, construction activity and public services.
The county received an A-plus for its base of highly skilled employees, who made an average of $44,300 last year in the private sector.
A-minuses were given to the county's tax structure and commercial construction.
The county received a C for increasing public spending even as income-tax revenue growth slowed. It received an A in that area last year.
The transportation-spending grade has dropped every year on the report card, from C-minus in 1998 to a D in 1999 and a D-minus in 2000.
County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said the poor marks this year were a result of the recession that started in late 2000 and was exacerbated by the September 11 attacks.
He said the F grade for transportation was "a clear signal that the state and county must raise the funds needed to fix our area's horrendous traffic problems."
The report card lauded Mr. Duncan's "Go Montgomery Transportation Plan for Our Future." The plan calls for $100 million in annual funding that will be paid for with a development-impact tax and increases in property taxes, state gas taxes and vehicle-registration fees.
The report card rapped the County Council, which deleted the Intercounty Connector from the Go Montgomery plan in 2001.
Council members had long opposed the road. As a result, Mr. Duncan campaigned ahead of the Nov. 5 elections for council candidates who support it.
At the council's first meeting after the elections, members voted to restart an environmental-impact study on the Intercounty Connector. The study had been halted by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
The road, which has remained in the proposal stage for more than three decades, would be a 16- to 18-mile highway connecting Interstate 270 in the county with Interstate 95 in Prince George's County. The estimated cost is $1.5 billion.
The road is expected to bring relief to increasing traffic congestion on the two highways and on the Capital Beltway, but experts say it could be at least a decade before construction begins.

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