Inter-County Connector + Another Potomac Bridge Crossing >>> What are your views?

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I notice that the Inter-County Connector (ICC) seems to be THE major issue for the upcoming election. What are your thoughts on building the ICC? What are your thoughts on building another bridge across the Potomac River? (Hasn't this been referred to as the "Techway", or is that a different road?) Do you think that the building of these two roads are related to each other? That is, do you think either can/should be built without the other? What effect do you think these roads would have on our community?

-- David Fishback (David.Fishback@smiths-aerospace.com), September 04, 2002

Answers

Before answering my own questions, I would like to state that I initiated this topic solely for discussion purposes, and to better understand different commuters' points of view. My own commute is ~8 miles against traffic, up to Germantown, so I don't feel the pain of the rush hours like (it seems) most do.

I oppose politicians who are FOR the ICC.

I am not against the concept of the ICC itself. I am not against another Potomac River crossing itself (which, in my judgement, is a more pressing need than the ICC to reduce congestion on I-270). I am not fully clued-in on the current "most-favored" route alternatives for the ICC, but I often hear of an ICC alternative that would connect I-95 with I-270 at I-370 (Sam Eig Hwy).

Suppose this ICC were chosen. Then suppose the idea of a new Potomac River bridge became more politically acceptable. It might make sense (from a road-planning perspective) to place the new Potomac River bridge so that the ICC can be extended to tie-in with it. Throw in some environmental results, and the sensible route for an ICC-to-New- Potomac-River-Bridge is between the Seneca Creek region and the Muddy Branch River region. *Voila*, Rt. 28/Darnestown Road becomes the ICC- to-New-Potomac-River-Bridge connector.

I think there could be some benefit to this: perhaps home prices would increase due to easy access to the entrance and exit ramp near Quince Orchard Road; maybe the traffic volume would become sufficient to draw more of the right stores to Market Square. However, in my opinion, the quality of life in Kentlands and the sense of connected- ness with the surrounding area would be diminished by having a noisier, higher-traffic-volume, pass-thru road adjacent to the neighborhood.

I know I'm getting way ahead of myself. There's probably a very slight chance that all of these things will come together in this way. One could argue that the widening of Rte. 28 is already having an detrimental effect for those whose property borders it. Until I have a clearer picture of what the ICC will be, and where it will be, I cannot support politicians who support it.

-- David Fishback (David.Fishback@smiths-aerospace.com), September 04, 2002.


As with our preferences in rock music, I find myself on opposite sides of this issue as my neighbor David Fishtank. I plan to vote for the best local politician who vigorously supports the ICC. It was critical 10 years ago and still is. There isn't another aspect of life in Montgomery County so uniformly punishing to all residents as traffic. Having spent the last 8 years commuting from the Kentlands to Prince George's County, I am keenly aware of how the housing boom in Montgomery and other counties has grossly overburdened the current highway and local road systems. One-way commutes of an hour or more are routine, and lengthen beyond that with a little inclement weather, or even a minor traffic accident along the way. Sitting in stopped traffic on a daily basis, one has plenty of time to ponder the incredible impact this problem has on one's home life and business, let alone the environment.

As everyone knew it would be, the HOV system has been utterly ineffective in reducing traffic congestion. Were this a highly industrial local ecomony, like say, Buffalo, where many local workers began and ended their day at the same time at the same factory, carpooling, and hence the HOV concept, might flourish. But we have no such local ecomony, and I-270 is jammed with single occupant vehicles, driven by professionals who work in various parts of a wide metro area, who do not keep regular work hours. For most local commuters, carpooling or mass transit are simply not viable options. And under our current local road system, anyone needing to get from Germantown, Gaithersburg, Rockville or the like to the Route 29 corridor, Laurel, Baltimore, or other communities due east, has to drive south on 270, east on the Beltway just to drive north on 29 or I-95. We have long needed a straight link between northern Montgomery County and Prince George's County that would remove this traffic from the 270/Beltway system. I have a hunch that if Parris Glendenning had to sit in I-270 and Beltway traffic twice a day, his views on the ICC would be decidedly different.

For those worried about the suggested "Techway" linking Montgomery County with one or more Virginia Counties via an interstate bridge, it's not likely to impact/improve our quality of life, nor our kids, nor their kids. The ICC was proposed in the 1960's, has been studied, challenged and reconfigured again and again. 40 years later it still has not been built, budgeted, or even approved, despite a clear need. There is no reason to believe that the "Techway" project would move along with any more dispatch.

-- Howard Simcox (sussmansimcox@aol.com), September 04, 2002.


The previous writer makes a lot of good points, but I disagree with his statement about mass transit not being an option for most local commuters. For that substantial segment of communters who work within a reasonable distance to a METRO stop, mass transit is a reasonable option. However, they selfishly choose to be solo drivers for the comfort and solitude that this mode of commuting apparantly offers. As I walk down 18th Street in the District every day to my office, I see these folks pouring into the City from Virginia and Maryland.

Some like to beat up on elected officials who oppose more roads. But how about more focus on these solo drivers, on more positive and negative incentatives to leave their cars at home or at a suburban Metro station?

-- Bob Mauri (newurban@erols.com), September 04, 2002.


Both an extended public transit system AND the ICC need to be built. Even with restricitng growth in Montgomery County, projections are that the population of the County is to increase in the next twenty years. As most commuters realize, the roads we have now are insufficient to handle the traffic volume we have on the roads. The additional population will only exacerbate the problem, especially since affordable housing is increasingly further away from the District.

In addition, for the western half of the county to continue to be attrative to businesses, a more accessible link to an airport is needed. I would much rather have that access to BWI in Maryland (via the ICC) than to have it to Dulles in Virginia (via a new Potomac river crossing).

Additionally, when the FDA moves over to White Oak, an additional 5000 to 6000 people will have to commute from their homes, mostly now on the west side of Montgomery (where FDA currently has scattered offices) to the east side. Another few thousand commuters trying to cross the county via the Beltway will just make matters worse. The ICC would provide an alternative for those employees.

The ICC could be built much sooner than an extended Metro rail system. It took ovwer 30 years for the originial extent of Metro to be built. Any additions would not provide any relief to commuters for a decade or more.

The additional bridge over the Potomac may be necessary, but building it down the Rte. 28 corridor is unrealistic (fortunately). The road would have to go through Potomac under that alignment, and, as we have seen with a proposed bike path near their homes, the residents of the multi-million dollar homes have a good amount of political clout.

Whatever decisions are made, there will be more people and more commuters in Montgomery County in the next 20 years. We can either do our best to provide the infrastructure to handle this increase, or curse our mistakes while sitting in traffic as they move in.

-- David Friend (quaodhoc@erols.com), September 05, 2002.


The Current Mass Transit Alternative:

In a way, I can agree with Bob Mauriís thesis that good citizen- commuters should make better use of mass transit. In theory, I can do that, and, under certain circumstances, I have done so. My current workplace is in the Tysonís Corner area (along with about 100,000 other folks). The nearest Metro stop is Dunn Loring. My company, cooperative as it is with local transportation initiatives, runs a shuttle from my buildingís front door to the Metro stop. If I take the no-car option to work, I ride a bus, two Metro trains, and a van (and a 15-passenger van at that, which, according to CBS news, will tip over if the driver so much as runs over a cigarette butt), and *VOILA* anywhere from 90 to 120 minutes later, Iím in the lobby of my office building. A drive down a packed I-270 gets me to work in an hour. On a good day, itís 25 minutes.

For the Metro experience, itís about $8.50 per day, whether you take a bus or park your own car. To drive costs about $2.50 in gasoline (granted thatís not the true life-cycle cost of driving, but if you believed the published cost-per-mile studies, you probably wouldn't buy a car in the first place.) And you canít forget all the nice strangers you can say you met on the train. Or the bus. Or the van.

Unfortunately, many of those who might otherwise take advantage of public transportation options are employed in fields that regularly take them out of their comfy offices to unpredictable places at unpredictable times. Virtually every one of them must rely solely on their private vehicle to get them from office to customer to trading partner to subcontractor during the envelope of their workday. We donít have many alternatives available for those people. This last reason (not the attractive two-hour each way public transportation commute or the great stereos on Metrobuses) is the one that governs my drive time choices.

Metro rider polls cite cost, inconvenience, and lack of auto parking at stations as important reasons for not using public transportation. My experience bears this out this resistance.

The Stand-Alone ICC in Theory:

A road that parallels the Beltway, running between two popular and accessible north-south arteries sounds like a good idea. Getting from I-270 to I-95 or beyond on limited-access road without using the Beltway sounds like paradise, doesnít it?

The Stand-Alone ICC in Practice:

Consider a commuter living in Ellicott City, Columbia, Laurel, or Baltimore who works in Northwest DC or Northern Virginia. A completed ICC sounds custom-made to reduce his travel time. Even if it doesnít reduce the straight-through drive time, the extra parallel path would appear to reduce the congestion-driven sit-and-wait time involved in the commute. Those drivers benefit. They WILL use the ICC.

Now consider living at or near either terminus of the ICC. Arguably every one of those inbound drivers opting for the ICC as a route to Northern Virginia or the District will now use I-270 as their preferred path to the Beltway (at least until proposals are enacted to widen Connecticut and Georgia Avenues to 16 lanes.) Every wreck on the Beltway at New Hampshire Avenue will funnel more cars south on I-270.

The same reasoning applies to drivers trying to access the western terminus of the ICC to head east. We locals will get to share the road with them, too. The only reasonable companion project to the ICC will be the one that widens I-270 to 32 lanes.

Does the Western Crossing Fit In?

Mr. Fishback has laid out some good speculations on the effects of a limited-access roadway leading to a Potomac crossing west of the American Legion Bridge. One effect he may have missed is the 30-foot high green noise barriers that would run in back of the Gatehouse District residences that back to what is now Darnestown Road.

Still, in my mind, the ONLY way to turn the ICC into a net plus involves building that western crossing as well. This bleak scenario at least gives drivers an option to continue across the river, thereby avoiding an encounter with a nightmarishly congested I-270.

My Logic May Be Flawed, But Ö

Until I hear the proposal that doesnít shift the problem from the Beltway right into Gathersburgís front or back yard, I canít see the ICC solving anything.

-- David Fetzer (dfetzer@starpower.net), September 05, 2002.



I've thought about this issue quite a bit, and I find myself firmly opposed to the ICC. Even the most optimistic estimates (from Doug Duncan) say that a major road-building plan including the ICC will cut congestion by 25%. Thus a 60-minute commute will become 45 minutes. But this is under optimistic assumptions. There are countless examples - and good studies - showing that more roads lead to more houses and cars. So any savings will be fleeting. Who wants to bet that within 2-3 years of widening Darnestown to 4 lanes that it will be just as congested as it was previously? Ignored in the discussion thus far is the terrible air pollution in our region. Even if congestion is reduced, the ICC will enable more cars to be on the road, hence more pollution. All of us have to suffer the effects of this. The congestion is at least a mild deterrent to more unsupportable housing. The simple solution is to live closer to work. If you choose to live further away, then the cost is a long commute. It's bad enough that I have to live in the heavy pollution generated by all those cars making 1-hour commutes; don't ask me to support roads that will lead to more cars and more pollution.

-- Steven Salzberg (salzberg@tigr.org), September 10, 2002.

I don't understand why people seem to have this backwards. The cars are already here. The development has already happened. That's why we need the new roads. METRO can't handle the 38% growth already projected so putting more people on trains and busses is not an option available now. BTW, I ride METRO daily from Shady Grove to Judiciary Square so I am not one of those single heads in an SUV on I- 270.

The pollution is also already here. Occasionally my job takes me out of the area so moving closer to work is not an option. Last week I attended a conference at the Maritime Institute near BWI. My preferred route is Muncaster Mill to Bowie Mill to Rt. 32 to the BW Parkway and then north to my destination. I spent one half an hour going one half mile on Muncaster Mill. All those cars, backed up in both directions were spewing their pollutants into the air all around me. The traffic reports said the Beltway was also backed up due to the never-ending construction between Georgia Ave. and points east.

The secret to this problem is to manage future growth in a more sensible manner beginning now. Most of the land owned by developers is already zoned for residential or commercial development. Most of the agricultural land left in our county is already part of the dedicated green space. If the county wants to stop growth, it must refuse to grant permits to the developers. There must be a good and sufficient reason to do this or the county may face lawsuits for improper "takings" and possible compensation to the developers. I'm not sure that lack of roads is a proper reason to stop development. Lack of sewage treatment capacity is a good reason.

In my view, the county should hold developers who want permits for their land to a standard such as Gathersburg used in Kentlands. That way, the future of our county will be a succession of communities with local amenities connected by mass transit rather than the current surburban sprawl which has resulted in people using automobiles to reach any destination anywhere.

But to do this properly we need the ICC and other road improvements or the mass transit connecting these new communities will be stalled in the existing gridlock.

Jim Hubbard

-- Jim Hubbard (hubbard-james@dol.gov), September 13, 2002.


Actually, none of us have it backwards. Of course the cars are already here. And building more roads will indeed make traffic flow more smoothly, for a while. But - unfortunately - if we build more roads, this will inevitably attract more cars, as it has over and over in the past. So we don't have it backwards - more roads attract more cars, and the ICC won't be any different.

You are right that we need to plan development better. Much better. But in the short term, there is simply too little disincentive against driving - even all the way from Frederick or Baltimore - and the air pollution is choking us.

I read an article in the news today (see the Reuters Health headlines at Yahoo News) that said, "A two-week-old baby in the Los Angeles area has already been exposed to more toxic air pollution than the U.S. government deems acceptable as a cancer risk over a lifetime." It went on to say that auto pollution is the biggest contributor to this air pollution. So yes, the cars are already here - but for our own health, and the health of our children, we need to get them off the road and replace them with cleaner forms of transportation. When we're all driving fuel-cell powered cars, then I'll support the ICC.

-- Steven Salzberg (salzberg@tigr.org), September 16, 2002.


So let me see if I have this straight. 1. Roads attract cars. So we shouldn't build more roads. 2. Metro is reaching capacity so we should expand mass transit options (which rely heavily on roads)at a cost of $12 billion so it can operate on an already inadequate road system. 3. Apparently development doesn't contribute to more cars since the only argument advanced is that roads attract more cars.

Something is wrong with this scenario.

I suggest that developoment has caused traffic gridlock not an expansion of the road system. The only solution is to build a road net which can handle the coming growth, and then manage the growth in a manner consistant with putting more people in mass transit or at least keep them from having to drive to the hardware store. Development will happen whether we build the ICC, the Montrose Parkway, open the Rt. 28 - Rt. 198 connection or not.

It is in the county's interest to grow. It's the type of growth that matters. If growth is properly planned, we can build the necessary infrastructure and not continue to suffer the traffic headaches we now endure.

Something else to think about. Residents of Frederick County now use Rt. 28 and I-270 to get to our area to work. Does anyone think that the new MARC train serving Frederick or the new parking lot at Shady Grove will solve the growth coming to Frederick County? This has nothing to do with the ICC but it WILL become part of the problem.

-- Jim Hubbard (hubbard-james@dol.gov), September 18, 2002.


The Potomac River crossing will be built. Since our govenor (no comment on where his brains are) refused to enter into discussions where the crossing would take place, Virginia officals wound up making the decision for them. If you want to see something amazing, take a trip to Virgina and look at the Northern point of the Fairfax county parkway. Then ride down its length all the way past Dulles and I-95 to Fort Belvoir. The Fairfax county parkway is what the crossing will connect into. Just draw a line between the end of the Fairfax County parkway and Sam Eig Highway, which is the beginning of the Intercounty connector, and you can determine where the crossing will be. There will be two highways connecting the crossing to I- 270. One will go from the new bridge to the Intercounty connector. The other will go from the new bridge, north to hook into I-270 North of Germantown. The real need for the crossing is to keep trucks with hazardous material traveling from Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburg, Detroit and Chicago to the Southeast US off of the Capital Beltway, and no longer going through the back yards of residential homes in Rockville, Bethesda, Real Potomac, McLean, Falls Church and Anandale (and away from the Springfield Mixing Bowl). Two incidents a few years ago locked in the fate of the new bridge. First a crash of a fuel truck at the 495-270 split that created a mushroom cloud almost a mile high and destroyed the beltway flyover bridge. Second a spill of hazardous material from a truck near the route 28 inersection that forced the evacuation of homes in the Rockshire/Fallsmeade communities.

-- E. Conner (esther@aol.com), October 27, 2002.


The concept of an ICC to cut across the counties is a nice shortcut to the BWI / Baltimore vicinity, but it has nothing to do with relieving congestion on I-270. Consider this alternative to an ICC for traffic relief in the I-270 corridor.

There is an expensive MTA plan to widen again, the already too wide and congested I-270 through Montgomery County, MD., which joins the Capital Beltway in its northwest corner. Included is a localized plan for a transitway, either LRT or BRT to assist moving people through this congestion. It would meander from Clarksburg to the Shady Grove Metro (last stop on the Red line) - about 13 miles.. As much as I would like to see an LRT (no BRT please) in my neighborhood, I don't think the MTA has gotten it right. At best, it would only take me to Metro at Shady Grove, and Metro already has too many problems of its own and is too overcrowded. So I suggest an alternative. I wrote this in July, 2002.

(It's on a free server so there will be a pop up banner ad I have no control over. Please ignore it.) There are photos and it may take a few moments to download.

http://www.angelfire.com/md3/i-270/I_270_Transportation_Proposal.html

George Barsky PO Box 4063 Gaithersburg, MD 20885 email: geoghb@erols.com

-- George Barsky (geoghb@erols.com), December 19, 2002.


BS The Corridor Transit Cities Trasitway is Dead. It was just a rouse to sell houses along the Great Seneca Highway Corridor. Since existing bus routes from Germantown and Kentlands are underutilized (a tangable piece of data) spending money to make a rail line to follow the same route is a waste of money. Since most of the homes in the Great Seneca corridor are in large subdivisions where most of the homes are not in walking distance (especially the 'walking'(ha ha) communities of Lakelands, Kentlands, Fallsgrove and Quince Orchard park) (when was the last time that you saw someone older than 16 walking to the Kentlands Giant from a single family house in Kentlands or Lakelands) from Great Seneca Highway (probable route) big parking lots would be need to be built at the Transitway stops. Given the price of the land and the probable legal roadblocks that would be put up by neigbors, the chance of success is minimal.

Also, the ICC would aleviate I-270 traffic. At the 270/495 split about 38% of traffic goes east during AM rush hour. Any persons traveling to points in Wheaton, Silver Spring, Annapolis, Anne Arundel county and and Upper PG county, would use the ICC, keeping those cars off of 270 and 495 and reducing congestion and pollution from idling cars. Also the ICC would encourage completion of the Techway bridge, which would permit those people currently commuting from Gaitersburg, Germantown, Fredrick County and Central PA into the Dulles Corridor and Manassas to also get off of 270 and avoid 495. The techway bridge would also aleviate the reverse backups now growing on 270 going south in the afternoon with Virginia residents working in the growing life-science corridor commuting to their homes in Manassas and Loudon Counties.

-- E. Conner (esther@aol.com), December 22, 2002.


I'll have to contradict the part about Kentlands not being a walking community, or at least I'll have to say that in my case I walk to the shopping areas from my home in Old Town whenever it it practical (i.e, when the stuff I plan to buy is not more than I want to carry home, or when I'm not pressed for time).

The part about how the new roads and the Potomac crossing will aid the current traffic congestion makes me wonder why we should direct so much of our resources towards the convenience of all the solo drivers (i.e., single occupant vehicles) who make up the overwhelming percentage of our traffic.

-- Bob Mauri (newurban@erols.com), December 22, 2002.


Yikes! Correction: I meant to say "Old Farm," not "Old Town."

-- Bob Mauri (newurban@erols.com), December 22, 2002.

The Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) is not dead, but it is likely to be a lower priority in the upcoming competition to get Federal transit funds. The ICC is likely to be a high priority submitted by the State government, given its prominence in the last election. Second, a purple line is likely to get more support than the CCT since the purple line will serve more constituancies (and therefore can garner more support).

I think the CCT is behind these two projects in the race for Federal funds because 1) perceptions are that this area is already served by transit at Shady Grove metro (not true, but perception is often what carries the day in political struggles) 2) the purple line gets more media coverage, and therefore more prominence and 3) east-west connections are in short supply, so they will most likely be addressed first.

As for the assertion that the CCT is a ruse for selling housing along Great Seneca, please note (1) the CCT does not follow Great Seneca, but goes up to Metropolitan Grove, crosses I-270, and heads up to Clarksburg, and (2) there is no more available land for development along Great Seneca - the large stretch north of Longdraft Road is State park land. As for the cost of the CCT, please note that the land is already in public hands, which in this area can be a significant portion of the cost.

The CCT is likely to be built at some time in the future, either as an express busway or a light rail line. It will be built for no other reason than the fact that Clarksburg is to be a town of around 25,000 within 10 years. Though the CCT may not be built in the next 5 years, I would be surprised if it is not at least under construction in 15.

-- David Friend

-- David Friend (quaodhoc@erols.com), December 23, 2002.



Given the fact that the preferred method of getting around is via solo car (how many of you take the bus (or even know how to) to Lakeforest Mall on weekends?) it is imperitive to have roads connect residiential areas with places people work and do business.

Also, given the fact that most households have two wage earners (women are now a fact of the workplace), it is unlikely that a couple could earn a living without using solo transportation, especially given that the central business district is no longer a reality and there is no law mandating that married couples work in the same location. Be aware the Washington area is a desirable area to live and do business in because of the wide variety of different employers. For instance, it is a great place to live since if you are employed in a high tech company on 270 and get laid off, your options may include getting a job in the Dulles area, or a government contractor in the Tysons, and still living in the same area, permitting your spouse to keep his/her job, and not having to move and uproot the kids.

The previous governments got away with changing zoining and approving development of office parks and housing develpoments, and willingly collecting taxes, and not spending the taxes on the roads and schools needed to optimize them. Building roads and schools is just following up on the changes in zoning (such as the high density in Kentlands) that have already been approved and the building permits that have been acted upon. Now standing in the way of the public's ability to get to work or to have their children educated, because one is retired and does not need those services, and does not want to pay for them, any more, is wrong.

The time to complain was 15 to 25 years ago when Gaithersburg and Germantown was re-zoned from rural to high density, and buisnesses were given the green light to establish.

-- E. Conner (ester@aol.com), December 24, 2002.


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