Council picks fight over ICC
Jan. 23, 2002
David Abrams
Staff Writer




TPR report blasted for 'lack of vision'

A transportation briefing before the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday quickly turned into a debate over the Intercounty Connector.

The county Planning Board and the Transportation Policy Task Force presented a report to the council that recommends and prioritizes hundreds of transportation projects costing a total of $6.9 billion.

"This is the opening salvo in what I think will be the year of transportation," said Council President Steven A. Silverman (D-At large) of Silver Spring when the briefing began.

That salvo was answered by Councilman Phillip Andrews M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, who criticized the report.

"I'm really disappointed with the Planning Board document," he said. "What I see is a lack of vision."

Andrews said the report focused too much on a list of projects and did little to explore whether they were sustainable environmentally and economically.

He also voiced his opposition to the Intercounty Connector, a long-debated road that would connect Gaithersburg and Laurel.

Andrews said that numerous studies have shown that the ICC would not drastically reduce traffic congestion, even if the environmental impact was minimized.

Councilman Michael L. Subin (D-At large) of Gaithersburg argued that study of the ICC should continue before any judgements are made about its merit.

Legislative leaders in Annapolis have proposed re-opening an environmental impact study of the ICC that was halted by the governor in 1999. Subin said the county should make a decision on continuing that study instead of staying silent.

The legislature will make a decision without county input "because we think it's better to be in limbo and not be part of the decision, than be part of the decision," Subin said.

Councilman Howard A. Denis (R-Dist. 1) of Chevy Chase said he will introduce a resolution endorsing the state bill so the council is on record about continuing study of the ICC.

Planning Board Chairman Arthur Holmes Jr. said the board recommended endorsing further study because all of the facts are not known about the project.

"Let's have the data so that you can have a comparison, and then let's put it to rest," he said.

The 34-member transportation task force has been meeting for 18 months and has been beset by clashes between members who favor roads and those who advocate more emphasis on mass transit.

The task force issued a report, which prompted a report from the Planning Board with its recommendations. Co-Chairman Stan Schiff criticized the Planning Board's recommendations at Tuesday's briefing.

"The major source of disappointment is less our own report than the planning department's," he said.

"You will have to search long and hard to find any serious reference to policy in that document," he added.

The task force made some policy recommendations on developing a growth policy, improving travel from north to south and developing a more regional focus of dealing with transportation, he said, but all those issues were ignored by the board.

Tuesday's briefing marked the beginning of a six-month process that will result in the council endorsing a transportation plan over the summer.

Two public forums on transportation will be held in Rockville on Feb. 12 and 13. Silverman said the council will adopt its own transportation policies by mid-July.

After the meeting, Councilman Isiah Leggett (D-At large) of Burtonsville called on the council to avoid the kind of divisiveness that slowed the task force.

"I think there's been so many votes taken already on a couple of the items -- like the ICC and others -- that I think it's pretty clear where council members initially stand," he said. "However, I think there's a great deal of other things in there ... that are going to cost a great deal of money and could have profound impact. Of course, you never know what happens after the elections."

To view the reports by the Planning Board and the Transportation Policy Task Force, visit www.movemontgomery.org.