Residents argue ICC tolls too expensive for daily driving
Some motorists worry they will be priced out
Many residents said Monday night that toll rates along the Intercounty Connector a highway that will link Prince George's and Montgomery counties could make the 18.8-mile highway too expensive for daily usage by many motorists.
Maryland Transportation Authority officials announced Sept. 29 that tolls on the $2.4 billion highway would cost anywhere from 20 cents to 35 cents per mile for most passenger vehicles. Some residents have since worried they would be priced off the road, which will link I-95 and Route 1 in Prince George's County to I-270 and I-370 in Montgomery County. Its first portion from I-370 to Route 97 is scheduled to open in fall 2010 and the remainder from Route 97 to I-95 will open by late 2012.
MDTA officials hoped to ease concerns at a public information meeting Monday night in Beltsville.
"It's kind of a mixed blessing," said Peter Akpebu of Beltsville. "On one hand, it's going to ease traffic and the other it's going to cost a lot of money."
The event was the first of two public information meetings where residents can submit public comments and discuss the project with officials. MDTA has received about 70 letters from residents since the project's 60-day public comment period began Sept. 23, said MDTA spokeswoman Cheryl Sparks.
"Some people feel like the toll rates are a little bit high," Sparks said. "But we've also received some comments saying that it's fair and people understand that there's a cost of these facilities."
Officials expect only 5 percent of drivers to travel the entire one-way length of the ICC, which could cost as much as $6.15, depending on the time of day. The average trip, Sparks said, will be about 6.6 miles one way, which would cost anywhere from $1.35 to $2.35.
Matthew Para of Laurel said he travels into Montgomery County three or four times each week and would likely use the ICC if he was running late or if traffic was bad elsewhere. But he added that the road is just too expensive to travel regularly.
"I'd be going over a good two-thirds of it, and the rates would be pretty high," Para said, adding that he would like to see even lower rates during late-night and early-morning hours when streets are especially empty.
Officials expect the ICC to be paid off through toll revenues by 2045.
Sparks said that while planners want to make the highway affordable for residents, they must also set rates that are high enough to keep the highway from becoming overused and congested.
"The whole point of variable tolling is to manage congestion first," Sparks said. "And then there's the balancing act of having revenues be able to pay for and maintain the facility."
Shirley "S.R." Akers of Beltsville said that despite the toll, he and other motorists will happily take the ICC if it saves them time.
"We really needed this thing. It's foolish to not have a way to get around to 270 without having to go to the Beltway," Akers said. "If they want to move without a lot of congestion, they'll take the toll road."
MDTA officials will host a second public information meeting Wednesday night at John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring. They will also host public hearings Wednesday at High Point High School and Oct. 29 at Shady Grove Middle School in Gaithersburg.
E-mail David Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.