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Posted at 8:45 AM ET, 02/23/2011

Breakfast on the ICC

By Robert Thomson

Intercounty Connector opens l ICC driver's manual l Archive

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.

icc
ICC traffic. (Gerald Martineau/For Post)

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 transportation@washpost.com.

Related stories:

Dr. Gridlock's ICC driver's manual

Getting an EZ-Pass for the ICC

New buses for the ICC

ICC story archive

Video: Resignation and acceptance as the ICC opens


By Robert Thomson  | February 23, 2011; 8:45 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Driving, Maryland  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, Intercounty Connector  
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Comments

How much does an EZ pass cost? I can't see myself using the ICC more than a few times every year, and I wonder whether it's worth the investment to get the pass.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | February 23, 2011 9:37 AM | Report abuse

good morning everyone..i took full advantage driving the ICC toll free from shady grove I-370 to Ga Ave...around 820am or so....state police out in force giving speeding tickets but otherwise beautiful road..anybody going from gburg to leisure world will see wonderful news..i just dont know if paying a toll will get me to drive...perhaps i need more roadway to explore...does ICC go beyond norbeck rd yet....just not sure who will benefit from this expense...

Posted by: wmnatzakanian | February 23, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

WashingtonDame, it depends on what state issues your E-ZPass. Virginia does not charge, at least not at the present time. Maryland charges $1.50 a month, New Jersey $1.00 a month; others vary.

http://www.ezpassva.com

If you ever drive north on any of the toll roads, E-ZPass is worth it even if you only use it once every couple of months. Last time I drove to Maine I estimate it saved me around 30 to 45 minutes waiting on line at toll plazas (bear in mind that on the "ticket system" roads, such as the New Jersey Turnpike, the Thruway, etc., it takes long to get through the cash lanes because they have to read the ticket first).

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 23, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

NOBODY IS USING IT WHEN IT'S FREE, WHO IS GOING TO BE DUMB OR RICH ENOUGH TO USE IT WHEN IT COSTS SO MUCH?

Posted by: jos587 | February 23, 2011 10:22 AM | Report abuse

What a bargain - $3,500,000,000 for higher taxes, rampant overdevelopment, extended urban sprawl, more pollution, and general environmental destruction.
Just so interstate truckers and a few Lexus owners can save 10 minutes, and a few developers and their political buddies can get richer.

Posted by: jos587 | February 23, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

NOBODY IS USING IT
-----------------
What a crock...there were plenty of people using it at 10:30 this morning!

I thought the road was nice, but I hope they finish up the work at MD 355 soon. It was kind of awkward going from 4 lanes to 2 then opening up to 3.

I didn't care so much for the signage....it says "Payment Options: E-ZPass, No Cash". Well, the only payment option listed under that white regulatory payment options banner is E-ZPass...so its not very clear that you can use the road without one (I know technically the word ONLY is not there) if you pay the processing fee.

Current standards in the 2009 MUTCD say that you just sign it as a toll road, just like the Dulles Toll Road or Jersey Turnpike....since it is just that, a toll road that anyone can use if they pay the toll. Then after you get onto the toll road, you tell people, "Oh, by the way, you won't be stopping to pay this toll, you'll get a bill in the mail, or you'll use E-ZPass." The only time it is necessary to tell people what payment options are before you enter is when "you have to do something in advance to use the road"...such as if E-ZPass was required and you'd get fined $50 plus the toll if you go through without one.

I didn't so much care for how the road ties into Norbeck Road though...you have to make a pretty sharp right from westbound Norbeck onto the ICC, and you could easily turn in front of oncoming traffic if you turn too wide. Going east, there is a pretty good dip right as you tie in...that could be a problem for anyone who tries to "beat the light".

Otherwise, I thought they did a nice job on it. I doubt I'll use it much until it connects to I-95. But when it does, it will be a great alternate to the Beltway in MoCo. Either coming from Tysons Corner, you can take I-270 to the ICC to I-95 (much less prone to weekend delays), or coming from home if the Beltway is bad I'll just cross over it on 29 and take that to the ICC to cut over to I-95.

I hope they keep tolls in line with the demand....i.e. if the road is congested during rush hour, the toll can go higher since the market price of that road space is higher than the current toll. This way they can regulate demand and keep the road free flowing and useful for all willing to pay.

Posted by: thetan | February 23, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: WashingtonDame, you might find some useful links regarding E-ZPass embedded in this posting:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dr-gridlock/2011/02/getting_e-zpass_for_icc.html#more

As thetan says, the right turn from westbound Norbeck onto the ICC ramp is a sharp one. This is a temporary ramp, and wouldn't meet anyone's expectations of a highway ramp. (And just for clarification: Left turns from eastbound Norbeck onto the ICC are banned.)

Also, as thetan suggests, I think we won't really be able to judge this highway as an addition to our transportation infrastructure till we see the whole thing done and in use in a year's time. This segment will help a very limited number of commuters.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | February 23, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

What I noticed about the Norbeck intersection is that the turn from the eastbound ICC onto eastbound Norbeck is a bit tight for two lanes and doesn't leave much space for people turning right from westbound Norbeck onto the ICC. I saw one driver hesitate to go right on red there because of the lack of space as people were coming the other way. But I don't think a "No Turn on Red" should be posted, since I think it's the responsibility of each driver to decide whether he can make the turn safely and to refrain from going if he feels he can't.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 23, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

55MPH limit is ridiculous on a built from the ground up, access controlled, deer fenced out roadway. Not to mention the waste of resources hiring officers to patrol this short stretch of road.

The ICC is fully automated. They could eliminate those officers and just use the tolling technology to calculate speed between "booths".

The 55MPH limit and hiring of cops just for the ICC serve no use other than to generate more revenue.

Posted by: ewong228 | February 23, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

"Breakfast on the ICC"

# # #

Copy-edit error alert. Should be "Losing My Breakfast on the ICC." Please correct.

(Memo to self: Must reserve the Maryland "IH8ICC" vanity plate while there's still precious time.)

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | February 23, 2011 5:58 PM | Report abuse

The road isn't fully completed yet, and there's not that much utility for that new open stretch. I think it's going pick up significantly when it opens to I-95.

Posted by: signof4 | February 24, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

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