Task force supports toll road

8-4 straw vote backs alternative to ICC connecting I-95, I-270

Endorsement is tentative

East-west parkway would set fees based on time, mode of use

February 20, 1999|By Candus Thomson and Gady A. Epstein | Candus Thomson and Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- The group studying alternatives to a much-debated intercounty connector between Montgomery and Prince George's counties says it could support an east-west toll road.

The 8-4 straw vote by the Transportation Solutions Group is the first indication of what will be recommended to Gov. Parris N. Glendening in July.

Glendening created the working group last year after backing off from 15 years of solid support for an intercounty connector.

The road, which would ease east-west travel, is also considered by officials at Baltimore-Washington International Airport to be essential to keeping BWI competitive with Dulles and Reagan National airports.

Glendening has said he could support a scaled-down, limited-access parkway, but he refused to comment on yesterday's developments.

"He's not going to prejudge the work of the Transportation Solutions Group based on a straw poll," said Glendening spokesman Ray Feldmann. "He's going to wait until they have completed their work."

Group members tentatively endorsed building a four-lane parkway from Interstate 95 to Interstate 270 that would assess tolls based on time of day and type of use.

"The road is different than anything we have in the country," said Thomas Deen, chairman of the 14-member group. "It's not going to encourage people to use it every day to get to work."

Deen said buses and car pools would travel free, and off-peak travel by individual commuters would cost considerably less than rush-hour use.

"That's the way they price telephone calls and airline trips," he said.

The parkway would be narrower than the proposed six-lane ICC, with a 10-foot rather than 70-foot median, leaving more room for a green buffer zone, Deen said.

The group has not determined the path of the road or whether it would be limited-access, he added.

Deen said he pushed for the straw vote so the panel's staff could have a draft recommendation prepared for the next meeting in April.

Yesterday, the Sierra Club's Maryland chapter, which has major concerns about the environmental impact of a connector, issued a statement accusing Deen of "manipulating the public's trust" by individually lobbying members to support a connector.

Deen said he did speak with each member in the weeks leading up to the meeting, trying to get "one idea that everyone could rally around. My job as chairman is to find common ground."

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, who this week urged the group to recommend a parkway, voiced support for yesterday's vote.

"I'm glad that's what they're leaning toward. If they had done the opposite, it would have been a serious blow to our region," he said.

Montgomery County legislators said the vote was a significant step, but noted that the debate could drag on for years.

Democratic Del. Dana Lee Dembrow said the vote may be "a promising start," but the working group has much to do.

"It puts us right back to the point where we started 30 or 40 years ago," Dembrow said. "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Del. John Adams Hurson, also a Democrat, called the vote a "step in the wrong direction" and said he believed Duncan's recent public pronouncement of support for a connector was a factor.

Pub Date: 2/20/99

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