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Maryland Outlines Toll Plan for ICC

The Maryland Transportation Authority, the agency that sets tolls on the state's bridges and highways, proposed a toll plan this morning for the Intercounty Connector, which is scheduled to open its first segment in Montgomery County late next year:

The mileage rate ranges for two-axle vehicles would vary from 25 cents to 35 cents per mile during peak periods (6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.) on weekdays and from 20 cents to 30 cents per mile during off-peak periods.

Once the 60-day public comment period on this is done on Nov. 23, and the toll range is given final approval on Dec. 17, the actual toll rates will be set by the authority's executive secretary. Toll rates can be adjusted within the approved range to manage congestion, the authority said.

The toll system on the 18.8 mile highway will be cashless. There will be no toll plazas. Drivers can use E-ZPass. Their electronic transponders will be read by overhead gantries. The ICC also will have a video tolling capacity. The license plates will be read by the video system, and bills will be sent to the registered owners of the vehicles.

The peak and off-peak periods could be adjusted by up to an hour either way once the highway opens and actual travel patterns can be determined.

When the first segment of the highway, between I-370 and Georgia Avenue, opens in fall 2010, the highest cost of a trip would be $2 for a car. The rest of the highway is scheduled to open by 2012. A total of 17.5 miles would be tolled. A trip along the entire tolled road would cost a car driver up to $6.15. Fewer than 5 percent of drivers are likely to travel the entire distance, the authority said.


[11:30 a.m. update]
Some interesting information came up during our Q&A with Transportation Secretary Beverly K. Swaim-Staley and other Maryland officials after the authority board session in Greenbelt on the ICC tolls.

-- Yes, there will be signs as drivers approach the ICC entrances telling them what the toll rate will be for them.
-- Maryland officials expect the vast majority of drivers will use E-ZPass, and they'll encourage that. The biggest encouragement will be the $3 service charge paid by drivers who must be sent a toll transaction bill because they don't have electronic transponders.
-- This system will be different from the Virginia HOT lanes. The toll won't vary with traffic congestion. It varies only with the time of day (peak and off peak).
-- Planners think the average driver will do 6.6 miles on the ICC.
-- Ronald L. Freeland, the authority's executive secretary, said he thinks it's unlikely the highway will be congested upon opening. The first segment, opening next year, will have limited appeal. And when the full highway opens by 2012, it still will take drivers a while to adopt their patterns to it.
--The authority can periodically revisit the toll range, possibly raising it higher if it does find the level of traffic congestion is too great.
-- The toll rate at the start of your trip is the toll rate you pay, even if the peak period begins while you were in the middle of your trip.

By Robert Thomson  |  September 23, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Construction , Driving , highways  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Intercounty Connector, Maryland Transportation Authority, tolls  
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Comments

Those tolls seem awfully low for a road that could potentially save drivers as much as an hour in travel time each way. There's also not much of a range there to allow for adminstrators to keep the road moving. The lowest toll is 20 cents per mile, while the highest toll is only 35 cents per mile. That's only a 75% increase officials can bump the toll to control traffic. This road will quickly become a parking lot with those tolling schemes. The toll would have to go well over $10 to make people think about driving down to the beltway if I-95 is backed up beyond MD 212.

SHA needs to go back to the drawing board on this idea. Also, is there gonig to be adequite signage on I-95 (and other connecting roads) that tell drivers what the current toll is BEFORE they make the committment to drive on the ICC, or are drivers going to have to wait until they've already exited onto the toll road? Granted, if it's not going to cost more than $6 to drive the full length of the road, than it's not that big of a deal. However, if they truly want to control traffic on the toll road and surrounding highways, those signs need to be there to give drivers the information necessary to make a calculated decision whether to drive on the ICC or take another route. Those signs also need to work better than those variable message signs that spew useless information or are malfunctioning 99% of the time.

Posted by: Russtinator | September 23, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

The amount of tolls that they are proposing is absurd. This will quickly become a white elephant at those rates. I understand the current fiscal realities which mandate that tolls be used. In all fairness, however, to those people who live by the ICC and would have reason to use it daily, it is maddening to see the State and County spend millions on improvements to I-270 and roads like Great Seneca Highway which have no tolls. If the public has to pay for it, there should just be a penny or two added to the gas tax in Montgomery and Prince George's County rather than singling out those who have waited 35 years for this road to be finally built. We paid for all those other road improvements.

Posted by: rock-o | September 23, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I CAN'T WAIT until this is fully built and we never have to hear "back-ups on the outer loop between I-95 and Ga. Ave..." every....single....day... again.

Posted by: DROSE1 | September 23, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Roads benefit all, not just those who drive on them. Goods are delivered more efficiently to stores. Emergency vehicles have shorter routes to the sites of the emergencies. Traffic on surface streets is lessened making travel on public, free roads more pleasant and more efficient.

Toll roads are an abomination and an injustice to those whose circumstances force their use. Tolls discourage the use of those roads in ways that make travel for everyone more difficult.

The ICC should be a free highway, not a toll road. It should be built and maintained out of the general fund, just as nearly all roads were built in the United States for a couple hundred years.

But I must state my opinion that, compared to experimenting with HOT lanes on the Beltway, a toll ICC is only a mild offense by comparison. The Beltway is not the place for experiments and needs to be built to handle the traffic it faces without tricks or revenue-raising schemes.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | September 23, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

This will be the empty highway. Off-peak in particular must be MUCH lower. Only 5% will travel the entire distance? Well, I95 to 270 is almost the whole distance, and that's why this road was put into place. So near $4 on the weekend to take the ICC ONE WAY? No thanks.

Posted by: keepandbear | September 23, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

"to-axle vehicles"? What's a "to-axle vehicle"?

Posted by: rlalumiere | September 23, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

What a cluster-funk! This $3 Billion boondoggle is NEVER going to pay for itself... lower tolls, higher tolls... I must agree with the other posters, the ICC is a NO-WIN situation for Maryland taxpayers nor commuters.

The only way out is to cut the state's losses and STOP the ICC toll road. Reroute the remaining taxpayer funds to road improvement plans for our existing routes. Many projects that can save lives have been put on hold because of the ICC raid of state transportation funds.

Thank for the debt Erlich!

Posted by: free-donny | September 23, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

While traffic control is a wonderfull idea i belive that Pricing out people from using the ICC with a use at 6+ dollars a day is a certain way that this road will be little used and a waste of taxpayer money and land infingment. A toll of 2-3 dollars would be more reasonable and allow for better use of the road. Are the tolls going to be removed once it pays for itself? I think not any road that has been tolled stays that way and costs only go up. not bad for the Lexus and Caddilac Lanes...

Posted by: campns | September 23, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I have already paid a toll -- in the form of my taxes paying for this road. This should not be a toll road at all.

Posted by: dcmddem | September 23, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Drose1, you may want to read the state's own ICC study which clearly stated that NO traffic reduction can be expected on I-95, I-495, nor I-270. Sorry, I apprecaite that you are trying to be hopeful, but the facts are the facts. This ICC represents a waste of taxpayer funds LARGER than the entire state deficit.

Posted by: free-donny | September 23, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

"to" is not "too" is not "two". Is there a proofreader position open?

Posted by: Michael_A1 | September 23, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Why a toll here and not on other major roads? Charging $6 to travel from 95 to 270 along the ICC, up to $12 round trip, while almost all other roads are free? A regressive tax, targets a small set of road users while other residents of the state that use our roads are untouched, and it discourages use of this huge public investment to boot. Why should a commuter going from Gaithersburg to Columbia pay $12 a day ($2400 a year) to get to work while somebody in Clarksburg headed to Bethesda pays nothing?

Posted by: melchior1 | September 23, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

" CAN'T WAIT until this is fully built and we never have to hear "back-ups on the outer loop between I-95 and Ga. Ave..." every....single....day... again.

Posted by: DROSE1 | September 23, 2009 10:52 AM

I would like to have some of whatever it is you are taking/smoking if you really think this won't happen ever again - hahahaha.
Seriously, not everybody is going to be willing to pay over $12/day just for tolls to get to and from work.

Posted by: jackdmom | September 23, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

And consumers will be paying again as the merchants pass on their increased transportation/toll fees to us since the truckers will certainly not eat the added costs.

Posted by: jackdmom | September 23, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I do wonder how many commuters are hoping that everyone ELSE is going to use this road. Right now, I can get from Columbia to Rockville in about 40 minutes using back roads after peak hours. The ICC only has the potential to save me, at most, 15 minutes. If I was running late, that might be worth $4-$5, but it would be just be my luck that the day I decide to use it is the day they have a horrible accident.

Posted by: ComfortablyDumb | September 23, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I find it interesting to hear all the comments about how the road will never be used because of high tolls. People said the same thing when the Dulles Toll Road opened. The then-75¢ toll you paid to drive from Reston to the Beltway seemed extremely high because it was such a short road and we were all used to the toll schedules for roads like the New Jersey Turnpike or the New York Thruway, which charged lower per-mile tolls than the Dulles Toll Road. (Of course, they were built many years earlier as well and were by that time using the tolls for maintenance, rather than to pay for the road.) But look at how traffic on the Dulles Toll Road actually evolved over time. The naysayers were proven wrong.

I have no real problem with the concept of a toll road where the tolls are used to pay for the road and its maintenance. The New Jersey Turnpike is the purest example of this: The ONLY funding the Turnpike gets comes from tolls and from whatever deal the Turnpike Authority has cut with the businesses that operate at the service areas (i.e., I don't know if they pay a flat lease rate or if they pay a percentage of their revenues). What this means is that if you drive on the New Jersey Turnpike, you help to pay for the road. If you don't drive on the New Jersey Turnpike, none of your money goes to that road. The toll revenue goes back into maintaining and improving the road--for example, the new and vastly improved Exit 1 toll plaza was built with toll revenues, and the widening project that's about to take place to extend the car/truck lane system down to Exit 6 will likewise be paid for with toll revenue (no tax revenue goes towards any of this).

I think it's hard to argue with a toll in that sort of arrangement. But I have no doubt that Maryland would probably divert the toll revenue to some other purpose.

Posted by: 1995hoo | September 23, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

As a Montegomery county resident for 40 years, I've paid for a road that should never have been built.
The money wasted on this developer boondoogle should have gone to mass transit, something all would benefit from not just the over zealous developers.
Change is inevitable but intelligence can manage effective change.

Posted by: wmiller2 | September 23, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

1995hoo, you mentioned the "then 75 cent toll" of the Dulles Toll Road. Isn't it still 75 cents? I'm pretty sure its NOT almost $7.00 one way like the ICC (the roads are close in length actually). So, the ICC toll is NINE TIMES the Dulles RD toll.

Beyond that, lets be clear about how MD is utilizing tolls. All ICC tolls are to go towards ICC maintenance, but they will fall short even by enthusiastic estimates. SO, MD has had to route tolls collected at EVERY other state toll plaza to the ICC maintenance. Thats right...the ICC is subsidized by all other toll bridges and roads across MD.

This is a bad deal for taxpayers, for transportation, and for America (due to the commitment of federal funds to the ICC by the Bush-Cheney administration).

Posted by: free-donny | September 23, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I've been using my little "back roads" for years to get between Gaithersburg and BWI airport and avoid the Beltway. I'd been looking forward to the construction of the ICC but now that I see how much it will cost to use it, I think I'll just stick to my back roads as the cost seems excessive for 18 miles. It will cost as much as travelling 2/3 of the way of the whole Jersey Turnpike. (Plus I recently cancelled my EZ pass due to the new monthly service fee which effectively doubles or triples tolls for infrequent users)

Staying home more looks better & better....

Posted by: sistinas | September 23, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

These tolls are way to high I'm glad I will never have to use.

Posted by: Brian_in_VA | September 23, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Well, that's better than the $1/mile peak charge they were throwing around a year ago.

$6 to save an hour of time - unless you're making minimum wage, your time is worth more than that and it should be considered a good deal.

Posted by: reiflame1 | September 23, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Maryland tax payers (myself included) paid for this road, and if you want to use it you will keep paying. If state officials think this will fly, then let the commuters show otherwise. Personally, I will never use the ICC. But what I hear is a lot of complaining about fairness. The fact is, drivers will use it if it's worth the price to them. For some the shorter commute will be worth it. For others it won't be. But I guarantee they did their research. The day that the ICC opens for business there will be toll-paying drivers on it, and nobody is going to put a gun to their heads to force them to commute that way.

And to be perfectly honest, people who choose to commute down 270 and then up 95 are morons in the first place and deserve to be charged a toll for all the harm they have done to the environment burning half a tank of gas every day getting to work.

Posted by: Rainier1 | September 23, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

"1995hoo, you mentioned the 'then 75 cent toll' of the Dulles Toll Road. Isn't it still 75 cents? I'm pretty sure its NOT almost $7.00 one way like the ICC (the roads are close in length actually). So, the ICC toll is NINE TIMES the Dulles RD toll."

I was referring to the total toll at entry and exit combined. That is, if you entered at Reston Avenue (which is now called Reston Parkway), you paid 25¢ at the on-ramp tollbooth and another 50¢ at the main toll plaza in Tysons. Total 75¢. I believe the ramp toll at the VA-28 exit was 35¢, for a maximum toll of 85¢ if you drove the length of the road, which was 13 miles. I believe at the time the toll to drive the entire length of the New Jersey Turnpike (118 miles) wasn't more than about $4.00, hence why people viewed the Dulles Toll Road as expensive (6.5¢ per mile if you drove from VA-28 to the Beltway, versus 3.4¢ per mile if you drove the length of the New Jersey Turnpike, assuming I recall the approximate toll correctly).

The tolls on the Dulles Toll Road have since gone up, of course, but I'm not really sure what the current amounts are since I use E-ZPass and thus don't think about it. I believe the main toll plaza is now 75¢ and the ramp tolls in Reston are now 50¢, but I'm not positive about those numbers.

Posted by: 1995hoo | September 23, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Thanks 1995hoo. I really did not know, I only drive it when I have flight out of Dulles...maybe once every five years...BWI is closer. As taxpayers and consumers, I just wish we were all given more control over such Billion-Dollar-Plus projects. Even if there was no toll, I've always called for MD voters to have a referendum to vote on committing the $3 Billion to build the ICC or Not.

This one was forced upon us.

Posted by: free-donny | September 23, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

There are a lot of know-nothing experts posting here. They will use the road. They will not use the road. The tolls are not enough, the tolls are enough, the tolls are too much. Put my expert opinion in the I will not use the road category....and I'll hope most other people do! If you don't know why I say that, then I'll keep it a secret. Please use it people, and I'll see happy traveling in my future!

Posted by: Pete433 | September 23, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I have to laugh.

Laugh at the brilliance the SHA's strategy of not disclosing these exorbitant toll rates until just after construction has reached the point-of-no-return.

Laugh at all those ICC supporters who are now shocked at the toll rates, which were predictably obvious to anyone paying attention.

Laugh at he first poster who thinks these outrageous tolls are TOO LOW!

Laugh at those who still think the ICC will reduce congestion on the Beltway.

Laugh at myself for believing that the state planned to use true congestion pricing on the ICC to keep it from backing up and that they would really make off-peak usage rates cheap enough for me to actually use.

Posted by: BamBamRubble | September 23, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

What about HOV? How will they manage and enforce?

Posted by: ewong228 | September 23, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Lots of interesting comments. I looked over the first batch and kept some of those questions and comments in mind when I extended the original blog posting at 11:30.

Couple of points the transportation officials made: They say there will be lots of signs so drivers know what they'll be paying before they get on. And they say the average driver is likely to do 6.6 miles on the ICC. From that, they figure the averagef driver will pay a maximum toll of $2.35 at peak, or a max of $1.65 off peak.

Post reporter Katherine Shaver, who covers the ICC, was also there, and she's writing a story.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | September 23, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

The tolls will be too steep for the average Joe. We are not New Jersey or New York. It's no wonder motorist in those states can't afford to cross/dive the bridges and highways.

Posted by: kevin_m_clay@yahoo.com | September 23, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Bambam, I feel ya...and your good points, but all these facts were available (the tolls, the debt incurred, etc...I just don't understand why folks did not fight harder and louder. MD has flushed nearly $2 Billion already. This is bad, but do we just remain silent and make it worse?

Posted by: free-donny | September 23, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Don't want to pay the toll? Don't take the road, or take public transportation. The toll should be the same around the clock, as "off-peak" drivers get the same "benefit" from the road. Metro should do the same.

Posted by: jckdoors | September 23, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

This boondoggle of a road wasn't built for MOCO residents. It's being built for a PG developer who can't build his huge project near Rte. 1 near Laurel without the ICC. I think PG should pay highter gas taxes, of course their people will be coming over to MOCO for jobs.

Posted by: VikingRider | September 23, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I live in Rockville and was looking forward to using the ICC and avoiding the beltway when travelling north. Not at those rates. Mine is one car that is staying on the beltway!

Posted by: dk92 | September 23, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I laugh because I moved from Monkey County and it's high taxes/tolls to FL years ago.

Posted by: FLvet | September 23, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

If you all feel that the tolls are going to be too high, THEN DON'T USE THE ICC AND QUIT COMPLAINING!!!!!! Nobody is forcing you to drive on the road.

The tolls at the 3 Baltimore Harbor crossings are $2.00. The Fort McHenry Tunnel (I-95), the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (I-895) and the Key Bridge (I-695) are about a mile to a mile and a half or so in length, so that's about $1.50 to $2.00 per mile just to cross the Patapsco River. That seems VERY high, but yet tens of thousands of commuters drive on those routes everyday because they are much faster and more direct to their destinations than using toll-free local roads.

Posted by: eyendis | September 23, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

This is incompetence beyond Big Dig.

Beyond Bud Paxton Interstate.

Beyond Wasillia bridge to nowhere.

This will be disaster.

Nobody will use the road.

Free State?

Huh.

Posted by: bs2004 | September 23, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Viking nailed it again. This is nothing but an Erlich sponsored giveaway to developers and road building contractors...it was never meant to be more...and never will be.

Our wallets are already lighter for it.

Posted by: free-donny | September 23, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

"What about HOV? How will they manage and enforce?"

HOV? hahahahaha

They didn't need no stickin' HOV lanes and the tree-huggers who come with them to get this boondoggle rammed through, so no HOV on the ICC.

The ICC is not about conservation or reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It's all about money, an automobile-centric view of the world, and enabling sprawl and over-development.

Posted by: BamBamRubble | September 23, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

to those complaining about the cost of the tolls:

As a matter of fact, the ICC could have been built for a fraction of its current costs had not opponents of every stripe been indulged and allowed to delay the project with all the petty objections, unnecessary studies and frivolous lawsuits they could come up with.

As recently as 1996 when "green" Glendening kowtowed to environmentalists and canceled the project, the estimated cost was less than half of today's cost. Had the ICC been built even then, we could quite likely be driving on it for free.

Fact is, the delays caused by the NIMBY's and self-styled "environmental stewards" have jacked up the ICC's cost significantly. Repeated "studies" are neither free nor cheap. Defending repeated lawsuits, however frivolous, is neither free nor cheap. And the costs of labor and materials aren't static. They increase over time.

Got a problem with the cost of the ICC and with the toll rates? Thank your NIMBY neighbors, the usual road-hating rabble, "green" Glendening, and your friends at the Sierra Club, among others.

As for me, I'll gladly use the ICC. The $12 round trip toll will be a small price to pay for the saved time and aggravation. Not to mention the satisfaction of finally beating the oppoNUTs.

Posted by: ceefer66 | September 24, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I suggest that we taxpayers (who were forced to pay for $3 Billion ICC construction, but cannot afford to actually use it) do NOT hate those who will drive on the ICC toll road. The facts are that taxpayers have been shafted before - we should not expect it to end:

* The "Big Dig"
* Haliburton profiteering in Iraq
* Blackwater profiteering in Iraq
* The "$5,000 toilet seats" from Reagan's DoD
* The ICC toll road boondoggle

We don't have the time to list every instance in our taxpaying lifetimes when (without our permission) we were sold out by corrupt politicians for the benefit of large campaign donors. It just happens.

The ICC screwjob just happens to be in our own backyard...and the great system of existing Maryland roads will suffer from the fiscal drain of the ICC. So, its tough for us to ignore this problem.

Posted by: free-donny | September 24, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

To the poster who expects to save an hour of travel time: The State's own studies show that the expected decrease in travel time between Gaithersburg and Laurel, which means traveling the full length, would be *4 minutes*.

To the posters who think that this will take traffic off the Beltway between I-95 and Georgia Avenue: That expectation also does not jibe with the State's studies showing that fewer than 5 percent of drivers are likely to travel the entire distance.

Posted by: juliemartinkorb | September 25, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

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