Sauerbrey seeks action on intercounty highway for D.C.-area counties Delay by Glendening is 'totally irresponsible,' Republican candidate says

March 26, 1998|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

GAITHERSBURG -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey called yesterday for swift construction of the controversial $1.1 billion intercounty connector between Montgomery and Prince George's counties, labeling Gov. Parris N. Glendening's delay "totally irresponsible."

Sauerbrey said Glendening's recent decision flies in the face of an urgent need to re-examine the project to relieve "paralyzing" traffic congestion that threatens jobs, damages business and undermines the quality of life. She offered no specific proposal, leaving that to local decision-makers. Responding yesterday, a spokesman for the governor said Glendening acted to get a stalled project, known as the ICC, onto a realistic track.

"He showed decisive leadership in saying we can no longer afford to waste money and study a 30-year-old plan that is no longer viable and simply doesn't make sense," said Ray Feldmann, the spokesman. "Super, 12-lane highways that rip through communities and damage the environment are not the sort of roadway we are about to build anymore in this state."

Instead, Glendening has said, the state should move forward with alternatives to the ICC.

But yesterday Sauerbrey joined business groups and others who have sharply criticized the governor's decision.

"Maryland has spent 30 years and over $50 million of taxpayer dollars in planning this road, yet nothing has happened to solve the problem," she said. She said Glendening's decision was "driven by political, not practical, considerations."

BTC "Intensity of feeling about the project is the issue," she said.

Environmental action groups and neighborhood activists are a better organized election-year force -- more effective than motorists, who, when inconvenienced by traffic, do not organize and turn out masses of voters on Election Day.

Until two weeks ago, Glendening had given the project linking Interstate 95 in Prince George's with Interstate 270 in Montgomery a high priority.

Then, suddenly, he said he was shelving it in favor of a new study.

At the same time, he told Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan that the state would continue to acquire rights of way along the proposed ICC route. A spokesman for Duncan said yesterday the governor told Duncan the state would spend $30 million for these rights in the event the new study finds the project viable.

"The governor wants to leave all options on the table," Feldmann said.

Sauerbrey spoke yesterday in a hotel parking lot as cars and trucks thundered behind her along Route 355 at Shady Grove Road. Asked if she thought it possible a new road would attract more development, more people and more traffic, she said, "The growth is here today. People can't move expeditiously now."

She challenged Glendening to say specifically what he would do to alleviate traffic.

"And," she asked, "how can we afford two football stadiums and not a decent east-west link between our two largest counties?" She was referring to the new Ravens stadium in Baltimore and Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Prince George's County -- both heavily financed with taxpayer money.

Feldmann said the governor realizes that many people want the highway -- "and took his position at some political peril." But, he said, Glendening believes the project has polarized the communities with pro-highway forces continually at odds with environmentalists and others who oppose it.

That conflict was not difficult to find yesterday.

While he waited for his purple sports car to be cleaned at Touchless II Car Wash around the corner on Shady Grove Road, Douglas M. Estes said he doesn't want the road built. "We're destroying this Earth," said the 51-year-old painter who works for the architect of the U.S. Capitol. "If we build more connecting roads, we'll just have more housing and more traffic. You can't keep up with it."

But business representatives said too much traffic can be destructive.

"Businesses around here are going to start moving toward Dulles Airport," said G. Stanley Doore of Silver Spring, an ICC advocate.

The road will not solve the problem, he agreed, but will ease it.

Mary M. Miller, former president of the Germantown Chamber of Commerce, said: "Business throughout the area needs relief from the hassle. Rockville Pike at rush hour is unbelievable. Every road down here is unbelievable at rush hour."

Pub Date: 3/26/98

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