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ICC passes another key hurdle

Friday, Sept. 16, 2005

On Aug. 31, the Board of Public Works voted unanimously to confirm the consistency of the Corridor 1 Master Plan Alignment of the Intercounty Connector with the state’s smart growth laws. This is yet another step forward on this key project, a final decision on which is expected later this year, with construction to begin as soon as late 2006.

For years, we have been hearing arguments about whether or not the ICC is consistent with smart growth. This decision ends that debate. We now have an official finding under the Maryland Smart Growth Act in favor of the ICC Master Plan Alignment as the preferred option.

This decision should come as no surprise to those who have been paying attention to the fact that smart growth was never seen as an alternative to building the roads in our long-standing master plans, but rather as a way to more efficiently utilize our planned roads, highways and other public infrastructure. In fact, Maryland’s 1997 Smart Growth Act specifically calls for major new highways like the ICC, which are necessary to support the higher densities in mixed-use town centers, as long as those highways either lie within existing smart growth areas or serve to connect those areas.

The ICC passes on both counts, with most of its right-of-way well within the existing smart growth boundaries of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. It also lies in a corridor that was already developed 20 years ago, in anticipation of the ICC being there. Since the development is already there, all that traffic is forced to use overburdened local roads causing both gridlock and safety concerns that the ICC will help relieve.

Traffic relief continues to be a top priority of our members and a key area of focus for the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. With the ICC now on the way, we can look forward to lasting reductions in traffic congestion in this area.

Of course, the ICC does not solve every traffic problem, and we need to move forward on the Purple Line and other projects, too. However, the ICC does cut congestion significantly at 39 intersections, it will divert tens of thousands of cars off existing local roads every day, increase travel speeds, reduce cut-through traffic and improve safety in our neighborhoods, and improve access to jobs and affordable housing as well.

Richard Parsons, Rockville

The writer is president and CEO of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce

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