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The ICC--Now, Maryland is for Road Lovers

There are three main arguments for building the $3 billion intercounty connector, the 18-mile highway that will link I-270 in Montgomery County with I-95 in Prince George's County, creating the first east-west route through those suburbs since the Beltway was built nearly half a century ago.

All three arguments are phony. And now the road will be built anyway.

1) Traffic is awful and this road will make it better. The first part is surely right. The second is a lie. Every traffic study done so far, both by proponents and opponents of the ICC, sends up the alarm: Congestion on the Beltway will not be eased to any appreciable degree by construction of this road. Sure, the local streets that now take on some of the east-west traffic may feel some relief, but the main point proponents make, that the ICC will restore some sanity to the Beltway, is specious.

2) Building roads is much cheaper than building transit. Highway boosters like to claim that you can build roads for $10 million a mile, while light rail costs $25 million per mile. Highways are just more economical; they carry more people and cost less. Except that the ICC doesn't fit the formula: This project will cost somewhere north of $2.4 billion, according to Maryland's own estimates, and likely $3 billion and more once you include financing costs. Add the soaring cost of materials thanks to rising oil prices and we're talking even more green. That's a per mile cost many times over the supposedly economical formula that pro-ICC forces tout.

3) Even if the road is too costly and won't ease traffic, it's necessary as a cultural bond, a link that will connect the people of Montgomery with those of Prince George's, allowing PG residents to find good jobs in the biotech corridor of MoCo, boosting development in the Laurel area of Prince George's, and connecting suburban Washington with the BWI airport. This is the argument that the Washington Post editorial page makes today

The state claims to have added safeguards that will prevent large-scale development from occurring along the course of the highway--fewer interchanges, zoning that prohibits massive new communities from popping up along the route, all manner of environmental mitigation. But developers know otherwise, and they have been snarfing up land in preparation for a bonanza.

And whatever bonds may emerge among the future People of ICC-Land, right now, the road is being used as a dividing line, a political tool meant primarily to promote the reelection of Gov. Bob Ehrlich, who has made this project the centerpiece of his appeal to the D.C. suburbs.

"Automobiles ARE Maryland's Mass Transit," read the bumper sticker on the SUV of one of Ehrlich's supporters at the announcement cum rally he held on Tuesday morning. On a grassy field along I-370 in Gaithersburg, Bobby Haircut and a small clot of road building executives, highway boosters and legislative supporters celebrated their remarkable victory in a 50-year battle to get this road built.

Neither MoCo Executive Doug Duncan nor Prince George's Executive Jack Johnson made it to the event. Nor did any members of the Prince George's County Council; only one member of the Montgomery Council was there. Why not? Because they are Democrats, and Ehrlich managed to get the word out to them only an hour or two before the event took place. Wouldn't want to spoil the video for Ehrlich's campaign ads this fall, right?

"What a great day for mobility in our region," the AAA's Lon Anderson said as the celebration got under way.

To be sure, the ICC looks just right on a map. Interstates 270 and 95 should be linked somehow. But a $3 billion highway is an absurd use of public dollars. Ehrlich, supposedly a conservative Republican, seems to have no concerns whatever about the price of this project. "You've had 56 years to delay this," he taunted a handful of protesters who made it to the opening, which was not announced to the public. "This is our day, this is our day. You know, at one time there was a Flat Earth Society, and they were wrong, too."

"This has never been a partisan issue, never," Ehrlich told his supporters, and he's right about that. Both of his opponents in the race for governor, Duncan and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, support the ICC. That's a good part of the reason why, no matter what opponents do now, as Ehrlich says, "It's a go."

But Maryland residents shouldn't delude themselves into thinking that, as the governor says, this road "will give back thousands of hours of time to our constituents" and "prevent hundreds of crashes" and provide "tremendous traffic relief."

Ehrlich celebrated the moment by planting some trees, a symbol that the new highway will be built with lots of green safeguards. But the highwaymen in his crowd didn't like that gesture one bit. Stan Doore, representing the Calverton Citizens Association, a neighborhood group in Prince George's, told me that "planting trees is counterproductive, according to scientific studies. Trees retain heat. Trees take water away." Roads, he said, are much better for us. "I'm a scientist," he told me. "I know."

By Marc Fisher |  June 1, 2006; 8:17 AM ET
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Comments

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Marc, I challenge you to come up with a VIABLE solution to getting around DC instead of just complaining about the road. In fact, if we could have an old fashioned debate I think you would easily see how your arguments, while compelling, only look at a narrow piece of the whole picture. This anti-development frenzy makes no sense to me; it keeps jobs moving here, housing values stable (instead of making everything unaffordable), and traffic moving (reducing pollution and oil consumption from wasted gas idling).

Posted by: Steven | June 1, 2006 8:45 AM

I love the pro-I270 people! Trees are bad for the environment! More driving reduces gas consumption!

Let's skip the logic, OK? When a new road is proposed, every driver in DC acts like one new lane will be reserved exclusively for them to cruise unobstructed at 85 miles an hour. Then when the road opens and is at capacity within two years, drivers are shocked. The brilliant "solution" is then to expand that road. Look at I66 through Arlington, the "solution" to Fairfax-DC traffic problems. Two lanes didn't work, so let's expand it to three! That'll solve everything.

Posted by: Miles | June 1, 2006 9:16 AM

Marc, ask yourself this question. How much would it have cost John and Jane Taxpayer had the ICC been built decades ago as it had been planned? If not for a vocal minority the ICC could have been completed by now at a fraction of what it will cost us now. Don't blame Bob Ehrlich for what the ICC will cost. Blame the environmentalists who postponed the inevitable for what will now cost upwards of $3 billion. At least Ehrlich had the guts to get this project done unlike his Democrat predecessors in the governor's office who pandered to the enviro minority.

Posted by: Keith | June 1, 2006 9:22 AM

We all agree that traffic is horrible, no argument from anyone there. I fail to see how an expensive to built and expensive to use (rumored to be $7) toll road is going to help anyone other than people who can afford a $40,000 SUV. The working class people in Prince Georges County are not going to spend $14 per day just to get to work. They are going to find other ways to get around or, work in Prince Georges County. Let's face it - this is for the developers and for the folks in MoCo who want and can afford a quick trip to 95 North without using the Beltway.

Posted by: KB ICC in my backyard | June 1, 2006 9:24 AM

If all those damn people that aren't from here would just move back to the midwest, the traffic in this city would be a lot more managable.

Posted by: OD | June 1, 2006 9:38 AM

I hate the idea of the ICC because I think more roads bring more traffic.
But.. the real reason I'm writing is that your article on the MoCo County Executive Saipan connection was very very funny today. Did you have lunch with Dana Milbank yesterday? You've now joined him in the choke on my coffee and bagel club as I laugh out loud while reading your articles over breakfast at Krupin's or the Booeymonger.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 1, 2006 9:42 AM

I'm just glad to see it will be a toll road! Hopefully, we can make it entirely funded by tolls.

Steve and Keith, I'm sure you can't possibly object to that, right? After all, as good red-blooded free market types, you couldn't possibly object to users having to pay market price for a service.

If we actually charged ex-urb twits the real cost of their lifetsyle, instead of overtaxing the urban areas to subsidize it, you'd see howls for transit really, really fast. But instead, you get Keith and Steve types demaning more subsidies for themselves.

In econ this is called "rent seeking behavior". I prefer to call it what it is...welfare for the well off.

Posted by: Hoo Boy! | June 1, 2006 9:57 AM

If building highways causes congestion, doesn't it make sense to close existing highways (let's start with I 66 through Arlington). At some point, we'll have no roads and by definition, no congestion.

Posted by: Near I-66 | June 1, 2006 9:58 AM

Is that a joke? When the wife and I moved to our Laurel neigborhood with out $120k income, we brought the average down. The Prince Georgians that will use the ICC are those that are outside of the beltway where there are no metro stations - think Laurel, Bowie, Greenbelt, Glendale, etc. The people in those towns won't blink at $14 per day. The working class people, if there are any in the County, are fortunate-enough to live by the metro stations. I expect that the ICC will be used heavily by residents of Prince Georges, Anne Arundel and Howard counties.

Posted by: Working-class people Prince Georges??? | June 1, 2006 10:15 AM

I believe that building the ICC is a wonderful idea. Maryland has fallen behind Virginia in terms of economic vitality and overall job growth. This highway will provide more land for high-tech companies to grow and make it much easier for workers and residents along the 270 corridor to get to BWI Airport and Baltimore. I believe that this highway is all about options and economic development. Just think, once the highway is built, if there is ever a crash on the Beltway, people who are now living in Rockville Germantown and Gaithersburg will now have an option instead of sitting in jammed up Beltway traffic or winding back roads.

Posted by: O'Neill Marshall | June 1, 2006 10:37 AM

Marc,
Why are you posting such misinformation? "'this road will make it better' ... 'is a lie'")
The study shows substantial overall improvement with the ICC, relative to the no build option. The "it" in "make it better" was never intended to be only the Beltway; why do you focus on that single road? It is only the southern boundary of the impacted region.
Even your dismissal "the local streets that now take on some of the east-west traffic may feel some relief" is misinformed. The study estimates that those streets WILL feel substantial relief. A very effective measure of relief is a comparison of "hours at capacity" at the key intersections; the study shows a reduction from 221 to 160 in 2030. You characterize that estimate as "may show some relief"? Please check your facts.

Posted by: Hans | June 1, 2006 10:43 AM

About time Maryland had some adult supervision to make decisions like this. "More roads means more congestion"....what tripe. And residents wonder why that state is in such big trouble, after decades of mismanagement by the Democratic Mafia. Keith is spot on, this road should have been built 20 or 30 years ago, when prudent foresight would have seen the demand coming, and overridden the ridiculous treehuggers. (I like Marc pointing out that one of the supporters was driving a...gasp...SUV. Sorry, some of us don't choose to live in the urban jungle, with high crime, stress, awful schools, and incompetent government...and convenient Metro access)

Posted by: JD | June 1, 2006 11:05 AM

I used to believe common sense was common, no longer, people are gleeful in their ignorance. Add roads like the ICC, or add lanes to such roads, and amazingly, they fill up. If improved transit was actually the goal, then shouldn't improved transit be the means? Instead of adding cars, we need to get people out of their cars (oh no, how un-American). Presently, the best method is public transportation. Logically (logic, something in very short supply), public transportation should be increased, not private transportation.

Posted by: Andy | June 1, 2006 11:53 AM

Any infrastructure being upgraded in Maryland is welcome after years of rampant overdevelopment and precious little done to add capacity to area roads(thanks Doug Duncan!).

Posted by: Mike | June 1, 2006 12:00 PM

"Maryland has fallen behind Virginia in terms of economic vitality and overall job growth"

Fallen behind? When was it ever ahead of Virginia in these areas?

Posted by: FFx | June 1, 2006 12:16 PM

Having done the Columbia to Germantown commute, I can't see how ANYONE could think that the ICC is a bad idea. People in eastern Howard and Western Prince George's county will benefit greatly from the ICC. Will this solve the traffic problem on the beltway? Absolutely not. It will, however, make life MUCH better for tens of thousands of people who drive between Prince George's and Montgomery Counties. I agree that the road should have been built a long time ago when originally planned. It was obviously inevitible even back then, and would have cost less and just been plain easier to do.

Posted by: CCC | June 1, 2006 12:22 PM

Would all of you who think the ICC is such a great idea still think so if it were running through your back yard or taking away your home and business?

Posted by: Kat | June 1, 2006 12:55 PM

Opponents of the ICC always make the point that the ICC won't alleviate traffic congestion elsewhere. I agree with their point, but not with their conclusion. It is clear that the highways - especially the east-west routes in Maryland - are overwhelmed during rush hour. Perhaps 10 or 20 years ago, at the levels of traffic prevalent at that time, the ICC might have have made a real difference in commute times. At today's traffic levels no single action such as building the ICC can have a significant impact on the east-west traffic density. And any new east-west route will be swamped. This is what the studies seem to show.

However, I do not see how this translates into the conclusion that the highway should not be built (or do not agree with that conclusion). The ICC will undoubtedly be used, the need for east-west transportation capability will undoubtedly keep growing. Some action, even 20 years latter than when it would have made an obvious difference, is better than no action at all.

Posted by: Steve-2 | June 1, 2006 1:18 PM

Please let this ugly issue go away!

I view this issue as a failure on all sides: the failure of the enviros to keep stalling, the failure of planners to anticipate the real needs of the counties, the failure of entrenched county politicians to actually make a real decision long ago instead of pandering and fobbing it off on future residents, and the failure of developers to just say no to yet another cash cow project. Is it no wonder the icc got approved?? The outcries astound me for all the hooplah and teeth-gnashing, while the past several years the same anti-icc folks hoped others would conveniently make their decisions for them. Now that this governor has signed the ink, lo and behold, there's nothing but the same worn out laments. No surprises there, and the developers win again. I mean, if it was really in the interests of everyone to end the icc, why did the county let it happen? We're getting what we deserve and now, painfully, we will have to live with our own bitter conscience, exorcise it, and just get on with this thing.

Posted by: ChevyImpala | June 1, 2006 1:39 PM

Marc:

I am a big user and supporter of transit. I have ridden transit in this area nearly every day for 20 years.

But I think you, as well as many people in the advocacy community, have a double standard. Many people slam the ICC because it costs $3 billion dollars, will not help congestion, and promotes sprawl. Yet, many of the very same people support extending Metrorail to Loudon County, even though it will cost more than $4 billion, will not ease congestion, and promotes sprawl deep into the western exurbs. In fact, the Commonwealth's own studies found that the Dulles Toll Road, which will be directly served by rail, will be level of service "F" regardless of whether Dulles rail is built.

Unfortunately, arguments over roads and transit ceased to be based on factual merits long ago. Instead, people have deeply held convictions about what is "good" and what is "bad" and they are not swayed by facts.

From a mobility perspective (that is what transportation is all about, isn't it?) the ICC probably provides a better bargain than Dulles Rail. It can carry a lot more people, particularly if managed properly, and costs a lot less. Moreover, the area served by the ICC does not have the density and development patterns to support a robust transit investment. Thus, I am not convinced that the transit versus road argument has any merit in that area.

I am not saying that I support the ICC. I would prefer to see more development and transportation investments inside the Beltway and at under-utilized Metro stations. But, if we compare the ICC to the Dulles Rail boondoggle, it does not look too bad.

There is one consistent theme among most transportation megaprojects: improving mobility generally is not the focus. Rather, politics, real estate development, campaign contributions, and other factors tend to be more important. Which probably goes a long way toward explaining why we have some of the worst traffic in the nation.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 1, 2006 1:41 PM

For all those who complain that new roads are filled up, do you seriously think your argument has merit? Would REMOVING lanes from the beltway help traffic? Tolls are a terrible idea, but I'd bet that the people who run EZ Pass and SmartTag(or whatever they will use for the ICC) are making some nice coin off of this. Growth around here is nice, people move here because there are jobs. Marc, the road will improve traffic, and you just can't force yourself to admit it. Take a deep breath and maybe a nice cold drink of water. You'll feel better.

Posted by: John Lease | June 1, 2006 1:42 PM

Forget the ICC (we lost), Read Marc's very funny article in the print edition of the Post today.
Its hot, we're at war in Iraq, Republican's are in charge of all three branches of governemnt -- take the time to laugh and enjoy life. Read the article!! Spend the 35 cents so we don't have to "retire" any more gems.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 1, 2006 1:54 PM

Well the highway is flawed in one major respect: It doesn't go out to Loudoun County, VA. If it linked up with VA-28 or the Toll Road out in Loudoun County, then it would be an effective bypass. As it is now traffic headed toward VA is still going to have to cross the American Legion bridge. Now for those commuting from Anne Arundel, PG, and Howard counties toward jobs in Germantown, it might save time. However, I wonder how many people actually commute to jobs in upper Montgomery County. I still think more people go to Virginia.

I am not anti-highway per se. I just question the value of the ICC in terms of its ability to reduce traffic without going to VA. Unless it crosses the river and connects to Loudoun County, I don't see the tangible benefits to the highway that proponents claim.

I do agree with Marc that the developers will build sprawling developments and strip malls by the exits. In turn this will turn Montgomery County into another Fairfax County with the same level of traffic and development. One of the reasons I choose not to live in Virginia is the crazy traffic. This is probably another reason why I won't be relocating to MD any time soon either.

Unfortunately what this probably means is that the Purple Line is dead for the forseeable future. And this is unfortunate because Metro does need an East-West line that would connect to both ends of the Red line, the Green line, and the Orange Line. This means that this project is dead because there will most likely be no money for it.

Ehrlich and his transportation secretary, Robert Flanagan, are hostile to any form of rail-based public transportation. They are extremely pro-highway and pro-bus. And that's because their base--exurban voters living on the outer fringes/rings of the Baltimore/Washington Metropolitan area--don't want easy access into their communities from "undersirables" living in the city and the closer suburbs. And Ehrlich represents their interests becuase they were his strongest suppoters--he polled over 70% in places like Carroll, Frederick, and Harford counties. By building the ICC the Purple Line isn't going to be built and other rail-transit options are off the table.

I don't hate highways. I am not one of those anti-car folks. I realize that people need to be able to have highways. What I have an issue with is that the highway doesn't go to Virginia. And unless/until it goes to Virginia, it won't be an effective bypass. Instead it's just going to lead to more congestion because VA-bound traffic still has to cross the American Legion Bridge.

Posted by: NW Washington | June 1, 2006 2:38 PM

Perhaps you should sit on Norbeck Road or Montrose during the morning rush and THEN see if the road won't alleviate traffic!

Posted by: MikeyA | June 1, 2006 2:58 PM

Well, on Montrose Road, aren't they building the Montrose Parkway? Isn't that supposed to allievate congestion there?

Posted by: NW Washington | June 1, 2006 3:05 PM

Nice to see the exurban welfare queens ignore the reality that the ICC (Actually...Intercountry Exurb Creator), etc...are all nice subsidized welfare. Really, you folks keep talking free market, but you just love yourselves some subsidies when it benefits you.

Again, this is just one example. The reality is that if we really had everyone paying the real cost of their lives, no one could afford to be out in the exurbs.

But really, as an Urban dweller I love being stolen from to subsidize your non-economic lifetsyle. Why not pave over everything with our money?

Posted by: Heh... | June 1, 2006 3:31 PM

I have mixed feelings about the ICC. I am generally pro-transit and pro-environment, but I think the road should have been built a long time ago. I attend a church that is situated on an east-west road that serves as a Beltway alternative between Prince George's and Montgomery; it's extremely hazardous for pedestrians to try to cross the sidewalk-free road, and people whiz by at 50-plus mph in a 35-mph zone.

Boston has had an "outer beltway" (I-495 in Massachusetts) since the 1960s and the world hasn't come to an end. Of course, I can't afford to relocate to the Boston area, either. Also, Boston had a system of much more well-established suburbs decades or even centuries before D.C.'s suburbs sprang up, so it isn't exactly a case of comparing apples to apples.

Posted by: Lil Patty | June 1, 2006 3:34 PM

Mention of the Montrose Parkway, uh, those who live off Montrose hate it, hate it, hate it. Those who think widening Montrose and building an offshoot will help are completely ignorant. More cars will come, accordingly, more traffic will come, and therefore, nothing is gained except the headaches and anger of the neighborhoods on Montrose. I don't want to hear anything from people that simply use Montrose as a way from 270 to the Pike. I grew up off Montrose and have seen it get over-developed and now napalmed. It was never meant to handle the cars it has now, and isn't meant to handle more. I can't even use it at certain times of the day anymore.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 1, 2006 4:20 PM

I'm sort of hoping that the ICC loses momentum again and falls back in the hands of the planners. Every year without being built seems to double the cost of this thing and there is the very real possibility that it may morph into a Contemporary Wonder of the World. If the MoCo planners are left to their own devices for another 50 years we might have the Great Wall of Gaithersburg.

Posted by: Chris | June 1, 2006 4:57 PM

In response to a point made by Heh.

No arguement that all road projects are welfare for someone. But I do wonder about your claim that city dwellers are subsidizing the suburbs. I seem to recall reading somewhere that in Maryland, at least, taxpayers in the suburban counties (Baltimore County, Howard, Montgomery, PG, etc.) pay more in taxes to the state than the state spends in the county. Whereas Baltimore City and the rural/western counties receive more state expenditures than they pay in taxes. The suburban dwellers would appear to be subsidizing the city dwellers, when looked at from this view.

Posted by: Steve-2 | June 1, 2006 4:58 PM

Steve-2,

All of us in this area, urban, suburban and exurban are paying more in taxes than we receive in services. Unless of course you are talking about the peeps in WVa who are on the plus side of things. Considering the growing number of commuters in WVa and SoPA the induce ment to develop NE MoCo could almost be considered smart growth.

Posted by: Chris | June 1, 2006 5:10 PM

After the last election, someone did an analysis showing that the "blue states" were subsidizing the "red states" and suggested that the blue states secede from the union.

If that hadn't already been tried once, I'd say it was a good idea...

Posted by: Steve-2 | June 1, 2006 5:30 PM

Um, 'Heh', you rail against (no pun intended) exurb dwellers whose transportation options are heavily subsidized....do you actually think that mass transit isnt subsidized, and to a greater degree? And what of 'free' roads (ie, no tolls, unlike ICC): are you suggesting that the government should get out of the road business altogether, because that's a subsidy? I guess you dont realize that the major taxpayers (exurbs, and wealthier inner suburb) subsidize basically all of society.

Please, to paraphrase Jack, go sell Crazy somewhere else, we're all full up here.

Posted by: JD | June 1, 2006 6:12 PM

In response to "What I have an issue with is that the highway doesn't go to Virginia. And unless/until it goes to Virginia, it won't be an effective bypass".

If another bridge is built across the Potomac, Maryland's BWI Airport will lose out tremendously in terms of competition with Dulles international Airport. The State of Maryland has invested billions in BWI Airport. Another bridge crossing will make it too easy for Montgomery County residents to get to dulles which is actually closer in distance. On the other hand, the intercounty connector will help to ease the connection with BWI by providing a more direct link as well as an alternative to the Beltway.

Posted by: Mr. O | June 1, 2006 11:10 PM

Mr. O: I have to say that I couldn't care less whether BWI or Dulles is more competitive. Does it really make sense for MD and VA to make decisions about spending their transportation dollars based on getting more people to use their own precious airports? Seems like misplaced priorities to me...

Call me naive, but I agree with Andy that the goal should be getting people out of their cars. The amount of oil in the world is limited, and gas prices are sure to continue to rise in the long term. We need to do everything we can to make people less dependent on getting around by car, or we'll end up with people stranded in the far suburbs.

Europeans have found ways to make mass transit efficient and convenient. We can, too. The ICC would be a step in the wrong direction.

Posted by: MeHere | June 1, 2006 11:41 PM

For those of you who ridicule those of us who are critical of the ICC: the claim is not that not building the ICC (or eliminating roads, as someone quipped) will alleviate traffic; the claim, rather, is that by building such roads, you subsidize sprawl and environmental damage without substantially improving the commuting experience of residents. You also subsidize economic growth, and if you think economic growth is the ONLY FACTOR in quality of life, then this is a probably no-brainer. "Smart growth" asserts there are other factors to be considered.

Posted by: clarification | June 2, 2006 11:55 AM

Why not build ICC as a multimode transit corridor with Metrorail, and use tolls to pay for Metro? Crazy idea for those SUV driving Republicans but it worked for I-66.

Posted by: andrew | June 2, 2006 12:37 PM

"Building roads is much cheaper than building transit. Highway boosters like to claim that you can build roads for $10 million a mile, while light rail costs $25 million per mile."

"By Marc Fisher
Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page B01

Highway boosters claim that roads are economical, costing just $10 million a mile versus $25 million per mile for light rail. But the ICC would cost $130 million a mile, and you can bet your house that number will soar."

Fisher as usual doesn't know what he's talking about. Highway advocates have claimed that roads can be built for 10 million per LANE MILE, and that claim is somewhat dated.

2.4 billion divided by 18 miles divided by 6 lanes equals about 22 million per LANE MILE. It would be nice if Fisher spend a little time doing basic research before expressing ignorant opinions.

Posted by: cartman | June 2, 2006 7:47 PM

"After the last election, someone did an analysis showing that the "blue states" were subsidizing the "red states" and suggested that the blue states secede from the union."

The flaw in the logic is to categorize entire states as blue or red (electoral college logic). The simple fact is that red counities and cities subsidize blue counties and cities.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2006 8:30 PM

"the claim, rather, is that by building such roads, you subsidize sprawl and environmental damage without substantially improving the commuting experience of residents."

Richmond has twice the highway lane miles per capita as the DC area. The commuting experience in Richmond is superior to DC. Areas with more road highway capacity don't see that capacity consumed entirely by more driving.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2006 8:47 PM

"Again, this is just one example. The reality is that if we really had everyone paying the real cost of their lives, no one could afford to be out in the exurbs.

But really, as an Urban dweller I love being stolen from to subsidize your non-economic lifetsyle. Why not pave over everything with our money?"

Really? Check out where the money is coming from for the ICC. Federal and State gas tax money and motorists' tolls.

Where is the money coming from for Tysons/Reston Metrorail (if its approved)? 50% federal (gas tax money) 25% from the state of VA (mostly from tolls on the Dulles toll road) and 25% local property taxes. How much directly from transit advocates and transit riders? Zero.


Posted by: elmo | June 2, 2006 9:17 PM

"The state claims to have added safeguards that will prevent large-scale development from occurring along the course of the highway--fewer interchanges, zoning that prohibits massive new communities from popping up along the route, all manner of environmental mitigation. But developers know otherwise, and they have been snarfing up land in preparation for a bonanza."

How concerned is everyone over the new high density development that will result in Tysons if a new rail system is built?

Posted by: mj | June 2, 2006 10:21 PM

I'm a former ICC supporter who changed sides when I found out that beyond its exorbitant cost to build, ANYONE who drives on it (including MD State and Montgomery and PG County taxpayers) would then have to pay a toll to use a road we already paid for. I DON'T THINK SO. If they want to charge tolls, have the developers pay for it. Why should we have to pay twice?

Side note about the blue state/red state issue: while it's true that many states are mixed, I find it so hypocritical that the religious conservative groups who want to legislate their own "morality" governing all citizens (gay marriage--who cares?) remain exempt from taxes. We either have separation of Church and State or we don't. Pay up or shut up, Bible-thumpers.

Posted by: momosity | June 2, 2006 11:26 PM

Support for the ICC assumes that energy will continue to be available at a reasonable cost. This isn't likely to be a valid assumption over the life of the ICC.

Oil is finite. As we use it, we use it up. We rely on oil for 97% of our transportation energy. You can't produce oil until you discover it. Discoveries will peak before production which will provide warning of the upcoming production peak. American oil discoveries peaked in the 1930s and our production peaked 40 years later in 1970. Global oil discoveries peaked in the early 1960s. We have had our 40 year lag. Global oil production will peak fairly soon. Another signpost we've already passed - We began to burn more oil than we discover in 1980. That gap is large and growing. In 2005 we burned 5 barrels for every one that we discovered.

Many oil analysts believe we are now at or very near the peak of global oil production. The post peak decline is variously estimated at 2 to 10% per year.

Those who think that we can just switch to ethanol or used french fry oil or cold fusion or ocean methane hydrates or shale oil or liquified coal or ocean tide energy or thermal gradient energy etc. are deluded. All of these have serious drawbacks and all of these combined can't replace the quality and quantity of energy we now enjoy from oil.

Knowing that oil will soon enter decline, doesn't it make more sense to build the Purple Line than the ICC? The ICC makes no sense and would be a bad idea even if it were free.

Posted by: Carl | June 4, 2006 8:38 AM

Re: '"Stan Doore, representing the Calverton Citizens Association, a neighborhood group in Prince George's, told me that "planting trees is counterproductive, according to scientific studies. Trees retain heat. Trees take water away." Roads, he said, are much better for us. "I'm a scientist," he told me. "I know."'

Please, PLEASE tell me you're kidding. Maybe someone should have interviewed this guy as a complement to the Bill Gray "global warming is a hoax" article published in Post's magazine two Sundays ago. It would have made a nice little sidebar: "Another 'Man of Science' in Denial" I'd love for him to quote the source of those "scientific studies." I'm sure all the tree-planting folks out there would be quite dismayed to learn that they're achieving the opposite desired effect with their activities.

Posted by: exurban | June 5, 2006 2:47 PM

Hey cartman,

You are the one with the flawed analysis of cost per mile. Light rail at $25 million per mile, presumably means a full blown transit line, running in both directions -- so $25 million is the total cost. The ICC Toll Road has a total cost of at least $130 million per mile. Even if you only built one lane in each direction and assumed cost would drop porportionately (which it would not), the total cost would be over $43 million per mile. Still nearly twice as much as light rail for a lousy two lanes. Increase that to a more reasonable four lanes, and the cost soars to over $86 million per mile, over three times that of light rail.

It would be nice if YOU would spend a little time doing basic research before expressing ....

Posted by: Dave | June 5, 2006 6:25 PM

"You are the one with the flawed analysis of cost per mile. Light rail at $25 million per mile, presumably means a full blown transit line, running in both directions -- so $25 million is the total cost."

25 million is the total cost? Check out GAO report on Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail systems. Light rail expansions are averaging 54 million a mile. Plus they don't break even after they're built. Check out the National Transit Database for the operating subsidies and the recurring capital costs.

You may also want to compare the number of people a light rail system actually moves compared to one lane mile of highway.

Posted by: cartman | June 10, 2006 11:44 AM

"The ICC Toll Road has a total cost of at least $130 million per mile. Even if you only built one lane in each direction and assumed cost would drop porportionately (which it would not), the total cost would be over $43 million per mile. Still nearly twice as much as light rail for a lousy two lanes. Increase that to a more reasonable four lanes, and the cost soars to over $86 million per mile, over three times that of light rail."

My point was that Fisher was criticizing highway advocates and he didn't even have the correct measurement.

43 million? 86 million? I guess like most transit advocates, you just make up these numbers. What part of "lane-mile" don't you understand?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 10, 2006 12:13 PM

Ok, here we go -

The ICC is using 19th century technology. We need a 21st century solution. As Steven, the first commentor, said - a viable solution.

We want the convenience and speed of cars without the traffic congestion and the pollution they create. We want minimal environmental impact and minimal right-of-way footprint required. We want an economical solution. We want a longterm solution, not one that will just be overburdened within a couple years.

How about a transit system that costs less per mile than what the ICC will cost and less than light rail costs, will require less footprint than either roads or light rail, goes faster than current road speeds and much faster than light rail, uses personal-sized vehicles that are waiting for you at a small neighborhood transit stop instead of you having to wait at a larger, more distant station, autonavigates you without stops to your specific destination transit stop, and doesn't emit the pollution that cars do?

And, for the potential $3 billion cost of the ICC, this modern system, instead of covering just the 18 mile point-to-point leg the ICC would, could (at a cost of just $1 million per mile) serve a 3,000 mile grid covering the region.

Ready to ride? www.skytran.net

Posted by: Joe | June 10, 2006 12:41 PM

Light rail is 19th century technology. Electric street cars and trolleys were invented in the early 1890s, and were made obsolete by cars and buses by the 1920s. They would have been phased out earlier if it wasn't for the temporary upward ridership spike during WWII.

Posted by: Cartman | June 11, 2006 11:29 AM

Cartman -
Yes, like cars, light rail is 19th century technology.

To digress a moment, however, your assertion that streetcars and trolleys were made obsolete by buses is, at best, hard to defend. 60 Minutes' 12/86 report asserted that it was a concerted effort by certain auto and tire manufacturers to kill the streetcar and trolley system that led to their demise. At least one of the ~1940's prosecutions for that situation still stands (Google Bradford Snell).

Who knows what our regional transportation system would look like now had streetcar and trolley systems not been dismantled? We very well could have had less traffic congestion as a result.

But, it seems my point was missed. I wasn't comparing light rail to cars - I was comparing a system that is even better than light rail to cars.

Speaking of obsolesence, wouldn't you want a system that could get you to your destination faster than a car, is personal sized, doesn't require you to wait for it, routes you nonstop to your destination, drives itself (thereby avoiding putting your safety and commute time at the mercy of many challenged drivers out there), pollutes less, takes less footprint than a roadway, and is cheaper to build? I know I'd much rather read for 12 minutes during my commute than have to concentrate on pacing the bumper in front of me for 40 minutes.

Posted by: Joe | June 11, 2006 6:50 PM

"Who knows what our regional transportation system would look like now had streetcar and trolley systems not been dismantled? We very well could have had less traffic congestion as a result."

We would have city streets clogged by streetcars. That's why they were replaced by buses.

"(Google Bradford Snell)."

Google the GM streetcar conspiracy. It's a myth. Many cities replaced their streetcars with non-GM buses.

"Speaking of obsolesence, wouldn't you want a system that could get you to your destination faster than a car, is personal sized..."

I have yet to see a workable, practical, affordable personal rapid transit system.

Posted by: cartman | June 11, 2006 10:18 PM

"2) Building roads is much cheaper than building transit. Highway boosters like to claim that you can build roads for $10 million a mile, while light rail costs $25 million per mile. Highways are just more economical; they carry more people and cost less. Except that the ICC doesn't fit the formula: This project will cost somewhere north of $2.4 billion, according to Maryland's own estimates, and likely $3 billion and more once you include financing costs. Add the soaring cost of materials thanks to rising oil prices and we're talking even more green. That's a per mile cost many times over the supposedly economical formula that pro-ICC forces tout."

Maybe someone should compare the costs of maintaining a road versus operating and maintaining a rail system. Maybe Fisher could write an article on the billion a year it costs to operate WMATA.

Posted by: mj | June 13, 2006 9:34 PM

"I have yet to see a workable, practical, affordable personal rapid transit system."

Again - www.skytran.net

Horse. Water. Drink.

Posted by: Joe | June 15, 2006 12:05 AM

Here is an interesting PRT site:

www.roadkillbill.com/PRTisaJoke.html

More info on the "GM killed the streetcars" myth:

www.1134.org/stan/ul/GM-et-al.html

www.upa.pdx.edu/CUS/publications/docs/DP98-11.pdf

www.lava.net/cslater/TQOrigin.pdf

Posted by: cartman | June 15, 2006 11:30 PM

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