Intercounty Connector makes a comeback
May. 26, 1999




June 4, 1999

Intercounty Connector makes a comeback

State panel expected to recommend cross-county highway

by Andrew J. Scott


Staff Writer

A state transportation panel plans to finalize a report today calling for a new highway from Gaithersburg to Laurel, reigniting the Intercounty Connector controversy.

The Transportation Solutions Group is scheduled to hold its last meeting today, completing a 14-month study of traffic needs in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening appointed the panel of transportation, land-use and environmental experts last year. He did so after he halted studies of the long-debated Intercounty Connector highway linking interstates 270 and 95.

TSG Chairman Tom Deen said he hopes members finish their work during a daylong meeting today in College Park, and then have the report printed and delivered to Glendening's desk by their July deadline.

"My sense is they think they're close," Deen said.

The 16-member panel is far from unified, though.

It voted 12-4 to recommend a parkway-like highway from I-270 to I-95, following the general path of the ICC. They suggested it be a tolled facility for single-occupant vehicles with a ban on tractor-trailers.

The report also calls for more mass-transit services and improved land-use planning to discourage sprawl development.

The panel also might call for lanes on the Beltway and I-270 that solo motorists will have to pay tolls to use.

While most of those recommendations have broad support on the panel, the ICC issue continues to divide them.

Highway opponents are writing a minority report, which will be included with the full report.

One of the opponents, Pamela Lindstrom, a land-planning activist from Gaithersburg, said she hopes the governor will read it.

"If Smart Growth means anything, it means the package of transit and transit-oriented development that are in this report," Lindstrom said.

The minority report argues against the ICC, saying it is a return to 1960s-era planning rather than a Smart Growth approach.

Smart Growth is Glendening's broad policy aimed at stemming suburban sprawl and revitalizing older communities.

The minority report also makes a case for more aggressive efforts to concentrate growth around mass-transit stations, to encourage people to leave their cars behind.

Glendening plans to review the report to decide how to address major transportation needs in the area. Last fall, he said he could support a parkway-like road if the TSG recommended it.

If he accepts the TSG's recommendations, Glendening is likely to restart the federal permitting process for the ICC, on hold since last spring.

The TSG was scheduled to hold a public hearing last night on its draft report.

At its last meeting, the group discussed the possibility of holding another meeting this month if it could not complete its work.

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