- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Opponents of the planned Intercounty Connector said yesterday that the proposed tolls will make it too expensive for some drivers to use the highway slated for the D.C. suburbs as a daily commuting option.

That would relegate those drivers to traffic-clogged side roads that the highway is meant to supplant, said Montgomery County Council member Phil Andrews.

“Thousands of drivers will be priced out of using the highway,” he said.

However, Robert L. Flanagan, Maryland’s transportation secretary, said toll rates for the ICC won’t be set for several years. The baseline cost used in the study was based on the rate for the Dulles Greenway in Northern Virginia and the Pocahontas Parkway in Richmond. The Greenway rate is 19 cents per mile on weekdays and 17 cents on weekends, while the Pocahontas Parkway rates are 17 cents per mile for E-ZPass drivers and 25 cents for those paying cash.

The tolls also are likely to be lower than what commuters pay to ride Metrorail.

“Quite frankly, the fares on the Metro system will be greater than the cost of driving on the ICC,” Mr. Flanagan said.

The state plans to fund up to a third of the $2.4 billion road between Route 1 in Prince George’s County and Interstate 270 in Montgomery County by charging tolls.

Construction of the road is expected to begin next year. The road is meant to help ease overcrowded east-west roads in the D.C. suburbs,such as the often-jammed Capital Beltway.

A state environmental study of the highway released last year reviewed how different toll rates would affect usage of the ICC, setting the baseline rate at 17 cents per mile during rush hour and other high-usage periods and 13 cents per hour during lower-usage hours. The study also evaluated the effects on ICC traffic of raising or lowering that rate.

Opponents of the road say that if the baseline rate is used, drivers could end up paying $1,500 per year on tolls.

The critics also said the rate would be higher than the national average of nine cents per mile for highway tolls, a figure based on a 2005 study by Illinois.

The state expects to receive federal approval of the environmental-impact study of the ICC early next year, Mr. Flanagan said.

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