Proposed intercounty highway backed by panel, agency chief

June 03, 1999|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

Whether it will be built remains a question, but the much-debated intercounty connector highway between Montgomery and Prince George's counties locked up two important endorsements yesterday.

A governor's advisory committee put finishing touches on a report recommending that the $1.1 billion highway be built, and Maryland's transportation secretary, John D. Porcari, added his support.

Even if the state intensifies support for carpooling, telecommuting, express buses and other types of mass transit, "there's still a need for some kind of east-west road," Porcari said. "Exactly how that's implemented is something the governor will discuss with his Smart Growth cabinet."

The meeting in College Park marked the final session of the Transportation Solutions Group since it was created 14 months ago to advise Gov. Parris N. Glendening on remedies for easing traffic congestion in the Washington suburbs, especially the Capital Beltway and its feeder roads.

The meeting followed a public hearing the evening before that drew 250 people, mostly opponents.

Pamela Lindstrom, one of four members of the transportation group who is against the connector, voiced surprise at the definitive nature of Porcari's comments. "If he's decided to be so positive about it, he must have vetted it with the governor," she said.

The transportation group has tentatively endorsed a four-lane parkway linking Interstates 95 and 270. The road -- whose route remains undecided -- would require varying tolls depending on the time of day and type of use. Access would be limited to "single unit" delivery-style trucks.

An analysis of potential toll revenues outlined yesterday suggested they would generate enough money to cover about one-third of the road's cost.

The four members who object to the highway wrote a separate report emphasizing such remedies as mass transit, traffic management, pedestrian and bicycle paths, and contending that the connector "adds little to this approach."

Members of the business community lined up in almost unanimous support.

"Trucks need to get from Montgomery County to BWI and the Port of Baltimore," said Enos Fry of the Montgomery-Prince George's CEO Roundtable. "To do that today they either have to use the Beltway or local streets. We are safer and better off if those trucks are diverted."

Sun staff writer Candus Thomson contributed to this article.

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