Breakfast on the ICC
I turned onto the Intercounty Connector at 6:07 a.m., took a sip of coffee and opened up a PowerBar. I reached the end of the ICC before I reached the end of the PowerBar.
To enter the new highway, I made a right turn from westbound Norbeck Road onto the single lane that takes traffic past construction equipment, cones and barriers onto the connector at 40 mph.
Off to the right, on an unopened ramp that eventually will lead to Georgia Avenue, I could see the TV trucks stationed to record the highway's opening. But as the speed limit rose to 55 mph and the connector opened up to three lanes, it appeared to me that the few drivers using the road were unconscious of their place in transportation history.
They weren't taking in the scenery. Most sped up to 65 mph or so to reach the other end as quickly as possible. There isn't much to see along the way. The middle of the roadway might be any stretch of six-lane highway with some nice-looking overpasses. There is one underpass that stands out because of its clean, white tiling, intended to help drivers' eyes adjust and reduce the required lighting.
At the western end, I went past the Shady Grove Road exit, the one drivers would take to reach the Metro station, and continued to the exit for MD 355, the last exit before drivers reach I-370.
It was 6:16 a.m., nine minutes after I had come down the ramp at Norbeck Road. That's going to be a time-saver for many commuters who now use the crowded east-west roads near the ICC, but we won't really be able to assess the impact of the highway for quite a while, perhaps till the entire thing is open about a year from now.
I turned south on MD 355 and followed the new signs telling me to make a left at the second light to reach the ICC eastbound. Several drivers who use the Shady Grove Metro station via Shady Grove Road or I-370 have asked if they will have to pay a toll once ICC tolling starts on March 7. They'll be fine. Any road they've been using up to now to reach the station is not part of the toll road, which is very clearly marked with new signs that include the word TOLL in capital letters.
I stayed in the left lane as I drove past the right-lane ramp that leads to the Metro station so that I could get into one of the two lanes that turn left on a green arrow onto the ramp to the eastbound ICC. The light is red for a long time, because of the many traffic movements at that intersection.
Heading east, I took the exit for Georgia Avenue, which comes up just after the lanes narrow from three to two. The long ramp splits traffic into northbound and southbound lanes. This eastbound trip on the ICC took six minutes from Shady Grove.
There still wasn't much traffic in either direction by the time I left the ICC on my last pass at about 7:30. The heaviest traffic I encountered came just after that, as I headed south on Georgia Avenue approaching the junction with Randolph Road.
Did you try it? Were you just out for a test drive, or looking to improve your commute? Did you notice something we should share with other travelers? Post a comment below or send a message to us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
| February 23, 2011; 8:45 AM ET
Categories: Commuting, Driving, Maryland | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Intercounty Connector
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