- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. restated his commitment yesterday to bringing major transportation improvements to Montgomery County, despite criticism that he is neglecting other Maryland regions.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said the state will have the money for the Intercounty Connector (ICC), the estimated $1.7 billion road that would link Interstates 95 and 270, and said he will try to complete the project.

“It needs to be built, and that is the bottom line,” Mr. Ehrlich told The Washington Times. “The road should have been built a long time ago. The people in Montgomery County deserve it.”

Mr. Ehrlich’s statement yesterday was in response to criticism by Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, both Democrats, about the governor’s plan to create an ICC budget separate from the state transportation budget.

Mr. O’Malley thinks Baltimore-area projects would be neglected under such a plan, according to a story yesterday in the Baltimore Sun.

Mr. Duncan, who has fought tirelessly for state and federal money for the ICC, said he is upset because the governor blocked a proposal to put a surcharge on vehicle registrations that would have raised $1 billion for the ICC, the Sun reported.

He also expressed concern about a proposal to impose a gasoline surtax to fund the project. However, Mr. Ehrlich said the proposal was made by legislators and that he does not support it.

“A gas tax is not the favorite option of our administration,” he said.

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan has said the surtax is unnecessary and that money has already been earmarked for the project.

Neither Mr. O’Malley nor Mr. Duncan could be reached for comment yesterday. They made the comments Tuesday while serving on a state transportation task force.

Mr. O’Malley said he supports the ICC but could not support dedicating a revenue source. He also said the ICC will likely overshadow Baltimore’s plans for a regional rail system and the proposed maglev train connecting Baltimore and Washington.

Mr. O’Malley told the Sun that Maryland residents cannot allow state transportation policy to “drift in a piecemeal and politically motivated manner.”

Mr. Ehrlich responded to Mr. O’Malley’s criticism by saying “I am governor of the entire state, not just one subdivision. … The ICC is priority No. 1 for my administration. I am for the ICC, and we are building it. That is the end of the story.”

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