Jury's out on the value of the Intercounty Connector
About 189,000 vehicles traveled on road between Feb. 23 and Monday
Less than a week after the first segment of the Intercounty Connector opened Feb. 23, drivers have mixed reviews.
Madelon Halula of Olney works near the Westfield Montgomery Shopping Mall in Bethesda and said the time it takes for her to get to work has been cut from 40 minutes to 25 minutes.
"I love the ICC," she wrote in an e-mail to The Gazette. "I went from a zillion lights to a total of three traffic lights between my house and work."
Others said the toll road an 18.8-mile highway that will connect Gaithersburg to Laurel which drivers have been able to try for free, has done nothing to alleviate traffic on local roads. Kirsten Hawkins of Silver Spring said Norbeck Road remains congested in the mornings.
Mary Ann Shirven of Derwood said the opening of the first segment has made it more difficult for her to access Interstate 370 from Shady Grove Road because of new traffic patterns. She said conditions on I-370 also have become more dangerous.
"It takes me 10 minutes extra [to get onto I-370]," Shirven said. "It's certainly not saving me any time. [There have] been a lot of near misses with people just jockeying to get into line."
Kelly L. Melhem, deputy director of communications for the Maryland Transportation Authority, said nearly 189,000 vehicles traveled on the first 7-mile segment from Gaithersburg to Olney during a free trial period, between 3 a.m. Feb. 23 and midnight Monday. The free trial period lasts through Sunday.
"What we're seeing now is likely not going to be indicative of long-term traffic volumes and patterns," Melhem said. "When you're looking at a new roadway or toll highway, it does take time for traffic volumes to stabilize. The numbers will likely not indicate the traffic volumes once toll collection begins."
The tolls for cars and light trucks are 25 cents per mile during peak hours, 20 cents per mile during off-peak hours and 10 cents per mile during overnight hours. A commuter traveling the full length of the ICC could pay $6.60 per trip during rush hour.
The full length of the ICC stretching from Gaithersburg to Laurel is scheduled to open by early 2012, State Highway Administration officials said.
The speed limit on the road is 55 mph. There are cameras to monitor traffic patterns, but there are no speed cameras.
Between Feb. 23 and 28, Maryland Transportation Authority Police issued 71 traffic citations, 131 warnings and 20 safety equipment repair orders for things such as cracks in windshields and broken tail lights.
Shirven, who lives along the ICC, also said she and several of her neighbors are disturbed by the traffic noise near their homes.
"The general consensus is that people [in my neighborhood] are resigned to it," she said. "But I don't know anybody who is happy, especially since they've had to put up with so much of the construction."