State, local leaders vow to revive intercounty highway connector plan

Glendening action draws Schaefer, Dixon criticism

September 26, 1999|By Matthew Mosk and David L. Greene | Matthew Mosk and David L. Greene,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening last week may have declared as dead a plan to build a highway link between Montgomery and Prince George's counties, but a powerful lineup of state and local leaders vowed yesterday to stop him from burying the project.

Top legislators, along with two members of the three-member Board of Public Works, said they would block any attempt by Glendening to sell off some of the state-owned land where the proposed Intercounty Connector (ICC) would be built.

Holding onto those properties would enable future governors to revive the $1.1 billion highway project, which has been at the center of a 50-year debate over how to decrease congestion in the area and increase access between Montgomery County and the Baltimore region.

Glendening said Wednesday he would not build the 17-mile ICC and instead proposed constructing two stretches of the highway at either end of the route, along with $250 million in other road improvements.

"This is a decision that he made unilaterally, without consultation with major elected officials," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Prince George's Democrat. "Looking at the long range and the state's needs, getting people to and from work, this road is an absolute necessity."

Miller, whose district would include a leg of the proposed link between Interstate 270 and Interstate 95, was joined in his opposition to the sale by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. and by Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, along with county executives across the region.

Opposition from Schaefer and Dixon could be a strong obstacle to Glendening's plans because they are two of three votes on the Board of Public Works, the panel that must vote on the sale of state-owned property. The governor is the third board member.

Glendening is examining ways he might transfer the land within state agencies without board approval, aides to the governor said. That question has been referred to the attorney general's office.

Schaefer said he does not believe Glendening will succeed in circumventing the Board of Public Works.

"He is trying to destroy something he shouldn't even have the final say over," Schaefer said. "This is one of those stands he makes so he can say he's an environmentalist."

Dixon said of Glendening: "Perhaps he hasn't read the [state] constitution."

For years, the ICC has pitted the business community, which views it as a vital link to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, against environmentalists, who view it as another leg of sprawling infrastructure.

"For 50 years, the ICC has created political gridlock," said Michael Morrill, Glendening's spokesman. "There are those who are obviously more interested in seeing that continue than solving traffic problems."

Taylor, an Allegany Democrat, questioned why Glendening had to sell off property and kill the ICC altogether, rather than waiting to see if his solutions worked and letting future administrations decide whether to complete the ICC.

"It's grossly premature and lacking in good long-range strategy for the state taxpayers to divest themselves of the property at this point," Taylor said.

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan -- both of whom have been mentioned as possible 2002 gubernatorial candidates -- spoke out against Glendening and supported building the ICC.

Ruppersberger said the ICC would "bring the state together as one Maryland." He said it was essential for residents of the Washington suburbs to have easy access to Baltimore if they are expected to use BWI and spend money at restaurants and businesses in and around Baltimore.

Duncan said he would like to see Montgomery County government buy the ICC property to keep the project alive, if all attempts to keep it in state hands failed. But late last week the Montgomery County Council issued a statement praising Glendening's decision, calling the ICC "a financial boondoggle and environmental disaster."

Pub Date: 9/26/99

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