Governor delays study of suburban D.C. road Proposed connector has been controversial

March 14, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF Staff writer Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this article.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening said yesterday that he will delay a study of a controversial proposed highway between Interstates 270 and 95 but will put other projects on the fast track to ease traffic congestion in suburban Washington.

The governor said too many other transportation initiatives have been delayed over the years as planners have wrangled over the proposed road, known as the Inter-County Connector, or ICC. He said he had asked officials in Montgomery and Prince George's counties for a list of projects that could be expedited to relieve serious traffic problems.

"We have to stop studying and actually start solving transportation issues," he said.

In a news briefing and in a meeting yesterday with Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, Glendening sought to control the political damage from reports that he had reversed his longtime support of the highway.

A report last week that the governor had abandoned his support of the connector surprised and angered supporters of the $1.1 billion project, who have long counted Glendening in their camp. The report prompted his most prominent Democratic primary opponent, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, to issue a statement supporting the highway and accusing the governor of "flip-flopping."

The highway has long been at the top of the wish list of economic-development advocates in suburban Washington and statewide.

The road, which has been part of the state's master transportation plan for 31 years, would run from the high-tech cluster of Rockville and Gaithersburg to meet I-95 near Laurel. Backers argue that the road would shorten the drive from northern Montgomery County to the Baltimore area and Prince George's County significantly.

Because the highway would run near neighborhoods and through open space, residents in its path and environmentalists have successfully fought its various proposed routes for 30 years.

In yesterday's interview, Glendening declared the project at an "impasse" and said he would launch a new 18-month study of alternatives. In the meantime, he said, the state will suspend work on an environmental impact statement concerning possible routes.

The governor did not rule out a resumption of work on the environmental statements after the new study is complete, but he did not hold out much hope that the highway could be completed as proposed.

"You aren't going to have the days when you just put down a superhighway anymore," said Glendening. "That type of highway is gone."

He said opponents of the ICC would have to realize that "a portion of the solution will be roads."

Duncan, a strong supporter of the ICC, said he was surprised by last week's report but had withheld comment until he could meet with the governor yesterday. After that conversation, the county executive said his sense was that "things are still very much on track."

He said he was reassured by the governor that the state would continue acquiring land in the rights of way along the proposed ICC routes.

Duncan said he would have preferred that work on the project's environmental impact statement continue while the new study proceeded, but he seemed unperturbed by the delay. "I don't see this as reversing anything," he said.

Del. Cheryl C. Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat who supports the ICC, expressed skepticism that a new study would come up with a solution superior to the highway.

Pub Date: 3/14/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.