Intercounty Connector getting real
In a week, the D.C. region's first major new highway in decades will be more than just a big construction project. The first segment of the Intercounty Connector is scheduled to open between Shady Grove in the west and Georgia Avenue in the east at 6 a.m. next Tuesday. Until now, most of your questions had to do with how the highway was to be built, so let's go over some details about the upcoming experience for drivers.
First, a question to you: In the comments section, let me know if you plan to use the first segment of the ICC on your commute and if so, why you think it may prove superior to your current route.
What is the Intercounty Connector?
This highway has been talked about for half a century. The final plan calls for creation of a 18.8 mile, six-lane, tolled highway across parts of Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Construction is underway along 17.9 miles of the ICC route, but the rest has been delayed.
What exactly will open next week?
This is just the western side, 5.5 tolled miles. About a year from now, the highway will open as far east as I-95. Initially, the entrances and exits on the Shady Grove side will be at the Metro station on Shady Grove Road and at MD 355. On the eastern side in the Olney area, they will be at Georgia Avenue and Norbeck Road (MD 28).
Why Norbeck Road?
The entrance and exit at Norbeck Road, just east of Georgia Avenue, is a temporary accommodation. Planners hope it will control the traffic flow at what is essentially an artificial eastern terminus for the new highway. Allowing traffic to exit and enter at Norbeck should take some of the pressure off the Georgia Avenue interchange. Once the rest of the highway opens, the Norbeck ramps will be closed.
What's the setup at Georgia Avenue?
The Georgia Avenue interchange will be partially opened next week. Southbound traffic on Georgia will be able to enter the highway heading west. Northbound traffic on Georgia will be able to turn left onto the westbound ICC.
From the eastbound ICC, traffic will find a ramp to southbound Georgia Avenue, then another ramp to northbound Georgia Avenue. Initially, these will be the only possible movements at the interchange.
What's the setup at Norbeck Road?
Westbound traffic on Norbeck will be able to make a right turn onto a ramp leading down to the Intercounty Connector. Eastbound traffic on Norbeck will be barred from making a left into the ICC entrance. Eastbound traffic on the connector will be able to turn either left or right at a new traffic signal on Norbeck Road.
How do I pay the toll?
There are no toll booths. Drivers will not be able to pay cash. The tolls will be collected electronically as vehicles pass under brown gantries on each side of the highway. (See photo above showing gantry in westbound lanes.) Devices on the gantries will communicate with the E-ZPass transponders on vehicles and assess the toll. For vehicles without E-ZPasses, cameras on the gantries will take photos of the license plates, and the vehicle owners will be sent a bill.
Should I get an E-ZPass?
If you think you're going to be a regular user of the ICC, even if not an every day user, you'll really want to have an E-ZPass. When the toll system is fully functional, vehicle owners who don't have E-ZPasses will be assessed a $3 service charge on top of the tolls.
Do the tolls start next week?
No, there's a special introductory offer. Maryland wants you to come on over and take a test drive for free. Drivers will start paying tolls on Monday, March 7. Until midnight on April 5, the $3 service charge will be waived for the drivers without E-ZPasses.
What do I do at the gantry?
Don't fear the gantry. Just keep driving. All three lanes are the same. The tolls are collected at highway speed, and the ICC speed limit is 55 mph.
What are the tolls?
Beginning Monday, March 7, passenger vehicles and light trucks will pay $1.45 during peak hours (6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays), $1.15 off peak (5 to 6 a.m., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 to 11 p.m. weekdays and 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends) and 60 cents overnight (11 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily).
Is this like the HOT lanes in Virginia?
No. While the High Occupancy Toll lanes under construction on the western side of the Capital Beltway in Virginia also will collect tolls electronically at highway speed, the toll will vary depending on the current level of congestion. Also, carpoolers who meet the High Occupancy Vehicle requirement will travel for free. There is no carpool provision for ICC travelers.
| February 15, 2011; 2:45 PM ET
Categories: Commuting, Construction, Driving, Maryland | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Intercounty Connector
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