Panel raises possibility of I-95 toll lane between Baltimore, D.C. beltways

Opposition to highway connecting Montgomery, Prince George's continues

April 15, 1999|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- A state transportation panel that has given preliminary endorsement to a $1.1 billion highway linking Prince George's and Montgomery counties also wants to study putting a toll lane on Interstate 95 between the Baltimore and Washington beltways.

The Transportation Solutions Group, formed last year by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, raised the possibility in a 54-page draft report circulated publicly for the first time yesterday.

"It's an interesting proposal," said John D. Porcari, Maryland secretary of transportation. "If they put it in the [final] report, it will be seriously looked at."

Members of the 15-member task force acknowledged they are looking for new ways to handle traffic congestion in the Washington region, which is second in severity to that of Los Angeles.

Business leaders say the Intercounty Connector (ICC) would improve access between Montgomery's high-technology corridor and Baltimore-Washington International Airport and the port of Baltimore.

"If 850,000 people in Montgomery County can't get to BWI in under two hours in rush hour, they're going to look at Dulles Airport," said Richard Parsons of the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

The transportation group's recommendation for toll lanes also included Interstate 270 and Interstate 495, the Capital Beltway.

"This would require converting existing HOV lanes on I-270 to [toll] lanes, and adding an additional lane in both directions on the remainder of I-270, on Maryland's portion of the Capital Beltway, and on I-95, from I-495 to I-695," the draft report says.

Panel members said the toll lanes would be free for buses and those traveling in car pools, while those driving alone could decide to travel in the less-congested lanes for a fee.

But they questioned whether federal officials would allow fees to be collected without providing users with an upgraded road.

A majority of the panel voted in February in favor of a toll road from I-95 in Laurel to I-270 in Gaithersburg, the so-called Intercounty Connector.

The road would look much like the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and would allow light delivery trucks.

"This is not the same road that has been proposed and studied in the past," said Thomas Deen, the panel chairman.

The ICC has been discussed by transportation planners for 40 years. The preferred path of the road has twice been rejected by federal officials who believe it would damage too many watersheds.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry support the 18-mile road, while the two county councils oppose it.

About 30 anti-ICC protesters shadowed yesterday's meeting at the University of Maryland, College Park and continued to denounce the road in any form.

"Same cow pie, different frosting," said Greg Smith of the Campaign to Stop the Intercounty Connector.

Opponents charged that Glendening created the study group to give legitimacy to the road, which he backed away from last year after 15 years of support.

The task force will have a public hearing June 1 and then meet the next day to fine-tune its report, which is due in July.

Members of the task force who oppose an ICC say they will file a minority report with the governor.

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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