New roads only add to sprawl

Question of the Month

February 22, 2003

Q: Despite the state's budget crunch, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is moving ahead with plans to build the Intercounty Connector in Montgomery County. Would you prefer to see Maryland invest in this and other highway projects, or in public transit initiatives such as the Baltimore regional rail plan and the maglev line?

New roads seldom reduce congestion. Instead, they tend to increase reliance on private automobiles and encourage development patterns that can only be supported by building even more roads.

In contrast, urban rail transit systems, as components of integrated transportation networks, efficiently move people along transportation corridors at volumes that far exceed the capacity of roadways.

Rail transit promotes concentrated development at station nodes, which counteracts sprawl. And transit-oriented developments provide opportunities for active places for human interaction.

Transit also alleviates automobile congestion in the city centers and reduces the need for parking. Per passenger-mile, the energy consumed, pollution produced and environmental degradation incurred are lower for rail transit than for any other mechanized mode of transportation.

But our rail transit network cannot support a better urban environment until it is extensive enough to complement other forms of transportation.

And projects such as the Intercounty Connector would divert funds that could go into implementing the Baltimore regional rail plan, which has met with an unanticipated groundswell of public support.

But if there is to be no state funding to further this plan, there will be no federal dollars either, and Baltimore will see no new transit lines for a long time.

Gordon Ingerson, Klaus Philipsen

Baltimore

The authors are co-chairs of the Urban Design Committee of the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

I moved to Maryland from New York in the early 1960s and have been waiting for a system of viable public transportation ever since.

I recognize that transportation is a statewide problem, but the monies earmarked for the Intercounty Connector are needed to implement the well-developed Baltimore Region Rail System Plan.

The Baltimore region has waited too long for its needs to be met.

Lois O'Brien-Cronin

Timonium

I believe it is profoundly unwise for Maryland to construct the Intercounty Connector.

I am well aware of the traffic congestion on our local and regional highways. Nevertheless, I have come to the belief that building more roads will only lead to more traffic.

The construction of Interstate 66 in Virginia was supposed to facilitate travel into Washington. But today's I-66 congestion is only a snapshot of tomorrow's ICC traffic.

We will not build our way to easier transportation, and it's disingenuous of politicians to imply otherwise.

Bernard Bloom

Silver Spring

The Intercounty Connector is never going to be built for several reasons.

First, there is no money. The roads in Montgomery County are crumbling, and there is no money to even to fill in the potholes. Second, the federal government will not approve ICC.

It makes sense for the citizens of Montgomery County to improve existing roads instead.

John R. Garza

Rockville

The Intercounty Connector is a misguided and incredibly expensive effort that will cause untold environmental damage.

It should be stopped once and for all.

Myron Sagall

Silver Spring

Regardless of whether the Intercounty Connector moves forward, we must invest in the Baltimore Region Rail System Plan now.

Forty years ago, Baltimore and Washington were two of very few regions in the country planning extensive rail transit systems. If we look to Washington, we can see what happens when an area follows through on those plans.

Its Metro system's biggest challenge is getting enough trains to keep up with all the riders, and many station stops have served as magnets for the kind of housing, cafes, music and other amenities that attract talented workers.

Here in Baltimore we lost momentum after constructing one subway line, but now we have another once-in-40-years chance to move forward again.

In today's economy, in which talented workers flock to regions with fun, lively urban places, and companies and economic growth tend to follow, we can't afford to wait any longer.

Dan Pontious

Baltimore

The writer is director of the Baltimore Regional Partnership.

For years I depended on buses to go to work. It was an unpleasant aspect of life in Baltimore because of long waits at all times of the year, in all kinds of weather, for overcrowded buses that did not seem to run on any dependable schedule.

However, the proposed rail plan should make moving about the area a very different experience.

Let's stop throwing money at roadways and start investing today in a safer, healthier, more economical and rational public transportation system.

Charles Devaud

Baltimore

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