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The Week Ahead

Here are some upcoming events and activities in local transportation.

Halloween Visibility
A ragamuffin parade in the neighborhood on Sunday reminded me: Trick-or-treaters can be really tiny. Watch out for them this Wednesday.

Between now and then, the Maryland Department of Transportation offers parents the loan of reflective vests to put over their children's halloween costumes. You can get them from the State Highway Administration shops today, tomorrow and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Here's a list of those shops.

Anne Arundel County
-- Annapolis Shop, 138 Defense Highway, Annapolis, 410-841-1009
-- Glen Burnie Shop, 910 Stewart Ave., Glen Burnie, 410-766-3770

Calvert County
-- Prince Frederick Shop, 100 Hallowing Point Road, Prince Frederick, 410-535-1748

Charles County
-- LaPlata Shop, 5725 Washington Ave., LaPlata, 301-934-8031

Frederick County
-- Frederick Shop, 5111 Buckeystown Pike, Frederick, 301-624-8251
-- Thurmont Shop, 67 Moser Road, Thurmont, 301-271-7787

Howard County
-- Dayton Shop, 4401 Route 32, Dayton, 410-531-5533

Montgomery County
-- Gaithersburg Shop, 502 Quince Orchard Road, Gaithersburg, 301-948-2477
-- Fairland Shop, 12020 Plum Orchard Drive, Silver Spring, 301-572-5166

Prince George's County
-- Laurel Shop, 400 Second Street, Laurel, 301-776-7619
-- Marlboro Shop, 6500 S.E. Crain Highway, Upper Marlboro, 301-952-0555

St. Mary's County
-- Leonardtown Shop, 26720 Point Lookout Road, Leonardtown, 301-475-8035

ICC Lawsuit

Today is the day for legal arguments in Part 2 of the environmental lawsuit against the intercounty connector project. The Sierra Club and Environmental Defense are trying to force the federal government to rescind its approval for the highway across Montgomery and Prince George's counties.


The groups said in a statement that they're making these arguments:

-- The connector was approved without a proper evaluation of its effects on local particle pollution.
-- The air pollution analysis failed to quantify the impact of toxic pollutants for which Maryland has set standards.
-- The highway fails to meet a 2005 federal requirement that projects added to a metropolitan transportation system be funded only if they "minimize fuel consumption."

The federal govenment and the state of Maryland, which is a party to the suit, say that the project is much needed and that the study meets all requirements.

Some preliminary work is underway on the project's western side.

Transportation Town Hall

Tonight at 6 o'clock, Virginia Transportation Secretary Pierce R. Homer will host a town hall-style meeting in Braemar in Prince William to talk about the Gainesville interchange project and the 11-mile extension of Virginia Railway Express service to Gainesville and Haymarket. The meeting will be held at the Braemar Clubhouse at Iona Sound Drive, Bristow.

Transportation Chat
Join me for an online discussion today at 1 p.m. to talk about any traffic or transit issue on your mind. If you'd like to submit a question or comment in advance, use this link.

By Robert Thomson  |  October 29, 2007; 7:45 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories  
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Next: Getting Ready for Gainesville

Comments

Of the $2,400,000,000 ICC, the federal government (Bush Administration) and the state of Maryland say that "the project is much needed". Oh, how I wish someone at MD SHA (or in the Bush Administration) would expand on that "much needed" part.

IMHO- If the need for this toll road was real and/or critical to the transportation needs of MD taxpayers, they would not be questioning the cost in tax dollars or to the environment. Clearly defining that need and how the ICC would work its "magic" is the missing key - that could win many Marylanders over. They may not even scoff at the $14 per round-trip toll. At this point, if put to referendum, I think the ICC would be rejected hands down.

Posted by: Donny | October 29, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

The ICC should have been built 30+ years ago. These continued lawsuits by the "environmentalists" are a complete waste of time. The state of MD and the federal government have already bent over backwards to meet every regulation, rule and guideline toward building a highway that is "environmentally friendly".

Yes, studies say that the ICC will do little to reduce traffic on I-495 between College Park and I-270, but the ICC is so desparately needed to alleviate the gridlock on the secondary roads people are piling on to in order to travel between Laurel and Rockville. Five years ago, I commuted from Burtonsville to Rockville; the commute was the worst one I ever had. The trip took 50-60 minutes on a good day; three hours on the worst of days.

The secondary road system in northern Montgomery County is completely crippled. I tried all the east-west alternatives out there from I-495 to Randolph Rd. to Bel-Pre Rd to MD 28/198. One route is just as bad as the other, namely because all are filled with cross traffic and signalized intersections. The high volume of frustrated drivers on these routes also helps to fuel pedestrian accidents. Pedestrians should not have to fear their life when crossing the Randolph Raceway to get from their house on one side of the road to the bus stop or the Glenmont Metro on the other. A controlled access highway will help the quality of live for everyone in northern Montgomery County.

Posted by: Heck with the lawsuits! Build the ICC! | October 29, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I also favor the ICC, strongly!

I live off of Norbeck road, Rt 28. This road has become gridlocked for hours twice a day because it is handling tons of cross county traffic. There are many trucks with their harmeful particulates going stop/go and belching exhausts, and many homes right on the road. The traffic lights have been timed to favor the through direction to such an extent that my neighborhood road (Baur) crossing Norbeck gets only 13 seconds at a cycle, while the Norbeck direction gets something like 2 minutes!

This is madness. Have you ever tried to sprint across 5 lanes and a wide median in 13 seconds? Yet that is where our kids are supposed to cross to get to school at Wood Middle School and Rockville High School.

People who focus only on the beltway are missing a larger issue: the big drop in quality of life and safety AND air quality that's happening on the secondary roads right now, close to our homes, and that would be alleviated by the ICC.

That's why the ICC is "much needed." Objective air quality readings along Norbeck and any objective safety standards for children near busy roads are a darn good argument and that needs to be acknowledged by ICC opponents. The fact that the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense never acknowledge these very real and current, not future, problems, makes me question their objectivity and true agenda.

Posted by: Lee | October 29, 2007 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Lee: First, considering where you live on Norbeck, I don't think you should expect the the ICC will result in a decrease in truck traffic along your part of the road. There may well be an increase in truck traffic heading north (east) on Norbeck to get onto the ICC at the Georgia Avenue access just north of the intersection of Norbeck and Georgia Avenue. Have you actually looked at the study to see whether your traffic is expected to decrease?

Second, you argue that objective air quality readings near busy roads are a "darn good argument and that needs to be acknowledged by ICC opponents." Actually, that is exactly what the ICC opponents are arguing. The question at yesterday's court hearing was: What must the State and Federal agencies do to make sure that the ICC does not cause a violation of the Clean Air Act? The State and Federal agencies were arguing that all they had to do was a "qualitative analysis" of the effect that the ICC would have on air quality. That is, would the amount of fine particulates in the air generally in the metropolitan region be higher or lower with the ICC? The Environmental Defense was arguing that the agencies were required to perform a "quantitative analysis" of the ICC effects on air quality. That is, the State would have to measure the current level of fine particulates in the air where the road will actually be located, and then use math to predict how much more of fine particulates will be generated by the ICC.

You state that, in your neighborhood, "There are many trucks with their harmeful particulates going stop/go and belching exhausts, and many homes right on the road." If the ICC is built, it will be within 50 meters of many homes in Derwood, who will also be subject to the harmful particulates of the trucks slowing down for the toll plaza and the terrible S-curves through Winter's Run and Cashell Estates. It will also run within a few hundred meters of Magruder High School. To paraphrase a song by Sting: I bet the people of Derwood love their children, too.

Posted by: Julie Martin-Korb | October 30, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

For all you anti-ICC NIMBYs out there, get over it. The ICC is one of the best answers to solving the traffic congestion that already exists in north central Montgomery County. As someone else already noted, the ICC is 30 years overdue so lets get the darn thing built. AND, more importantly, it shouldn't take an hour and a half to drive 14 miles (the distance from Burtonsville to Rockville) on a regular basis. PERIOD.

Posted by: Build it now | October 30, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

"First, considering where you live on Norbeck, I don't think you should expect the the ICC will result in a decrease in truck traffic along your part of the road. There may well be an increase in truck traffic heading north (east) on Norbeck to get onto the ICC at the Georgia Avenue access just north of the intersection of Norbeck and Georgia Avenue. Have you actually looked at the study to see whether your traffic is expected to decrease?"

Of course there would be a DECREASE in traffic on local roads including Norbeck. Except for truck traffic (and all traffic) coming directly out of downtown Rockville, the traffic would instead use I-270 to I-370 to get to the ICC. All the quarry traffic coming from over on the west side of Rockville (off Great Seneca Highway and Darnestown Rd) would simply take Great Seneca to Sam Eig to get to the ICC. This traffic would never come close to Norbeck Rd.

I live off Bel Pre Rd between Georgia and Norbeck, the amount of cross-county traffic going down a 25mph two-lane street is ridiculous. My HOA did an informal survey of commuters in 2006 and found that most of the traffic on Bel Pre Rd at rushhour is traveling to and/or from a location that is more than 10 miles away. Read: This is not local traffic. Instead, its the cross county folks going from the I-270 corridor to places like Burtonsville, Laurel (PG County) and even Columbia!

"If the ICC is built, it will be within 50 meters of many homes in Derwood, who will also be subject to the harmful particulates of the trucks slowing down for the toll plaza and the terrible S-curves through Winter's Run and Cashell Estates. It will also run within a few hundred meters of Magruder High School. To paraphrase a song by Sting: I bet the people of Derwood love their children, too."

The ICC is a controlled-access highway! The school children of Derwood, Olney and Fairland will not be crossing the ICC to walk to school, will they? Plus, the harmful particulates that you complain about should be on a controlled-access highway, like the ICC, surrounded by noise barrier walls.


Posted by: Bel Pre Rd resident | October 30, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Bel Pre: The school children of Derwood who live in Winter's Run and Cashell Estates will, in fact, be crossing the ICC to get to Redland Middle School. In the current design, there will be a pedestrian bridge.

As for noise barrier walls, first, they are not designed to contain harmful particulates--they are designed to block noise. Second, noise barrier walls are not guaranteed to be built. The State gets to determine who is "affected" by the ICC, and will not divulge who those people are. Then, 75% of those who are deemed "affected" have to show up to vote and affirmatively vote "yes" for a sound wall. No vote for the wall = a "no" vote.

As for trucks: I sincerely hope that truck traffic will be reduced on Norbeck Road, but I would urge you to read the study and see if that is actually expected to be the case. Also, remember that the ICC will be a toll road. Will trucks going from Rockville to Burtonsville pay a toll when they can travel down your road for free?

Posted by: Julie Martin-Korb | October 31, 2007 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Bel Pre: The school children of Derwood will, in fact, cross the ICC to go from their homes in Winter's Run and Cashell Estates to Redland Middle School.

The sound walls are not built to contain fine particulates--they are built to block sound. In addition, the sound walls may not be built. The State determines who is "affected" by the ICC and will not divulge who those people are. Then, 75% of those "affected" have to show up to vote and affirmatively vote for a sound wall. No vote = a "no" vote = no sound wall.

I sincerely hope that truck traffic will be reduced on Norbeck, but would not assume it or expect it. I think you should read the study. Also, remember that the ICC is a toll road. It is likely that trucks going from Rockville to Burtonsville will avoid the toll and use the local roads.

I only ask that people inform themselves of the facts before making decisions. You might well decide that you are still in favor of the ICC, but it will be an informed, rational, and therefore better, decision.

Posted by: Julie Martin-Korb | October 31, 2007 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Julie,

It sounds like you and I agree on the importance of sticking to facts and logic, and being as informed as possible. I don't have an unlimited amount of time for this issue, but let me share my thoughts.

I did attend one of the ICC meetings. MD and Montgomery County officials made a good case, IMO, about the benefits of the road and what they were doing to mitigate the negatives. The Gov. funded study recommended the project. Now I know that Environmental Defense has commissioned its own study, but I don't expect it to be objective.

The issue has become so bitter that sane discussion seems nearly impossible. In particular, at the planning meeting, I was sad to see the rudeness of the anti-ICC crowd, who often interrupted pro-ICC speakers (citizens with a right to speak) and boo'd. That doesn't bear on the merits but I pass it on as evidence of how this issue has degenerated.

To be frank, I don't automatically believe politically-stressed studies that tell me things that seem unlikely. For example, that new long-haul road capacity will not reduce cut-thru traffic at my neighborhood. My roads are full of cut-thru drivers who will prefer a faster path. Right now they are just creeping, which is hugely expensive: even with market-based tolls, the ICC will be their better choice.

With respect to where the pollution happens, I'll just reinforce a point made above that the ICC should flow more smoothly (tolls) and impose fewer start/stop cycles and less overall pollution. No-one knows the future, but that's common sense.

It is ironic to me that I carefully bought my house away from the "future icc" signs dotting Montgomery County, and my roads will become a disfunctional ICC-wannabe if the county fails to impliment its Master Plan (which I read before buying my house 14 years ago). So, to me, there is also a fairness aspect: I was informed and made the right decision and I'm still (maybe) going to get the traffic and pollution, but WITHOUT all the mitigations that can be done with a real ICC. I am chagrined at the possibility that the ICC can be delayed for 3 more years by more court action on the part of the opponents. It will be hard to wait for relief.

I encourage you to consider all the people affected and practice some skepticism regarding recently commissioned studies. Also, it's worth asking why such points are being raised now, after all this debate. I think the opponents are taking a kill-it-any-way-possible strategy, not a principled approach. Just my opinion.

I hope this doesn't come off as a rant or an attack, and I'm sorry it's so long. I'm just a tax payer who has made choices informed by the official Master Plan and am very frustrated by the abysmal transportation system here and its many liabilities. In my mind, Maryland and Montgomery County have broken their compact with me.

Sincerely,

Lee

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