Council votes to take ICC out of Master Plan
Nov. 3, 1999




Duncan vows to fight plan

by Steven T. Dennis


Staff Writer

November 3, 1999

The Montgomery County Council is trying one more time to drive a stake through the heart of the Intercounty Connector, this time with a plan to turn government-owned land reserved for the road into a park.

Five council members voted Tuesday to begin eliminating the central portion of the road from the county's Master Plan and converting the 190 acres of rights of way owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission into an "interim park."

The "interim" designation would let future councils decide whether to build a local road or a transitway, but not an ICC.

The council's decision places another barrier to building the original Master Plan alignment of the ICC because federal rules make it very difficult to build a highway in a park. The change would officially take the road off the Master Plan, where it has been for decades, but would not prevent the state from building an ICC if a future governor and legislature decide to build one.

County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a strong ICC supporter, pledged to fight the council at a Tuesday breakfast meeting, but his powers are limited. Duncan has no veto power over the Master Plan change, and only five council members are needed to approve the change.

"We'll find a way," he said.

The battle could end up being fought in the halls of the State House. Duncan said his state legislative agenda should be the same as the council's, except for the ICC.

Council Vice President Michael L. Subin (D-At large) of Gaithersburg, an ICC supporter, said turning the land into a park was shortsighted but could succeed in preventing the road from ever being built.

"The reality is that not only is it much more difficult legally, but politically it is also next to impossible," Subin said. "We're not going to give up open space and parkland for a road."

Councilman Blair G. Ewing (D-At large) of Silver Spring said the precedent for an interim park is the Georgetown Branch bike trail now proposed for a trolley line. That land is designated for use as a park with a provision that it could be used for transit.

The other supporters of the park plan said it is time people acknowledged that the ICC is dead and move on to other, more feasible projects.

"The longer we argue about the ICC, the longer our citizens are going to sit in traffic jams," said ICC opponent Nancy H. Dacek (R-Dist. 2) of Darnestown. She said the ICC was diverting attention from other projects that she said were "ready to go."

Dacek also said the county's biggest traffic problems are north-south, not east-west.

"The ICC has become an obstacle to relieving traffic congestion," said ICC opponent Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg.

Councilman Derick P. Berlage (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring said the ICC was dead even without the council's action because the Environmental Protection Agency has declared the route unacceptable. Berlage said it is time the county's plans reflected that fact.

Ewing, Dacek, Andrews, Berlage and Councilwoman Betty Ann Krahnke (R-Dist. 1) of Chevy Chase backed the plan.

Councilwoman Marilyn J. Praisner (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring opposed the ICC, but refused to support the resolution for fear that it could create more pressure to build the ICC along a northern alignment.

The council's decision is not unexpected -- the council has been talking about the idea for months -- and it bolsters Gov. Parris N. Glendening's vow to kill the central portion of the proposed road for good.

The move does not affect Glendening's proposal for western and eastern parkways along the ICC route in the Master Plan. The council previously has recommended studying the eastern parkway, but not a western parkway.

Richard Parsons, a spokesman for the Greater Washington Board of Trade, called the council's action "symbolic" and "political theater" that ignores the need for east-west traffic relief.

"They still have their heads firmly lodged in the sand," he said.

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