Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Open forum: Pro-environment, pro-ICC

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Open letter to those who oppose the ICC:

Don’t you just hate getting caught in a traffic jam? Having to wait an hour just to move a few hundred yards? Watching your gas gauge drop lower and lower as you sit idling in traffic, blocked in on all sides by other distraught commuters who are equally as frustrated as you?

Thank goodness it doesn’t happen often. Well, that is, unless you have to travel the Interstate 270⁄495 corridor most days during rush hour. That would be any time between 7 and 10 a.m., or 2 and 8 p.m. because that is when traffic is usually bumper to bumper.

Let’s be honest. The reasons for building the ICC are obvious.

Environmental: Not only are commuters wasting costly fuel sitting in gridlock traffic — an idling car gets exactly 0 miles to a gallon — but they are also releasing more greenhouse gases and particulates into the air through continuous braking and idling than if the traffic were flowing smoothly.

Don’t believe idling is unhealthy? Our friends at Harvard state (‘‘Engine Idling: Impacts on Your Health and the Environment”) ‘‘Exhaust from motor vehicles is a key component of ground-level ozone or smog, a contributor to global warming and can cause serious health effects. In addition, very fine particles emitted from diesel and gas engines are lung irritants and can trigger asthma attacks and more serious health conditions. All of these contaminants are produced when motor vehicles idle.” (http:⁄⁄⁄ehs⁄ehs_idling.shtml)

Quality of life: Commuters are forced to leave home earlier and leave work later to navigate the daily gridlock, causing them to miss out on precious family time as well as denying themselves the down-time necessary to mentally and physically re-energize and refresh before the next workday.

Modernization for efficiency: The I-270⁄495 corridor supports not only Northern Virginia traffic but Silver Spring, Laurel, Annapolis, Baltimore and all points east. It is obvious that this single route is not adequate to handle the kind of volume that has grown over the years. Providing a route farther north will allow many of those people who live in the eastern part of the county and work in the northern, to bypass the bottleneck at the I-270 split, and avoid having to go all the way around the horseshoe.

I have read the articles that claim building the ICC will not reduce traffic on the Beltway. Anyone who is opposed to building the ICC should be required to make the drive from Germantown to Silver Spring, Monday through Friday for a year via I-270 and I-495. I can guarantee that after a year, they will be the ones begging for the ICC. If it wasn’t an effective and credible plan for easing traffic congestion, then it would never have been considered in the first place. It is a necessary and long overdue solution to the currently hellish conditions commuters are forced to endure.

I am an environmentally friendly vegetarian who cares greatly about the condition of our planet. I rescue worms off of hot sidewalks. I use a cloth grocery bag so I don’t have to choose between paper or plastic. I’d buy a hybrid if I could afford to. I am 100 percent for a Green Planet, but if cutting down a tree to build a road will alleviate the mental, physical and financial suffering these commuters have to bear on a daily basis, then I say, cut down that tree!

Carla Chase, Rockville