When I ran for governor, one of the most common concerns I heard from Marylanders was the need to improve and expand our state’s transportation system
Marylanders waste hundreds of hours every year stuck in traffic. Gridlock forces parents to spend hours behind of the wheel instead of home with their children. It wastes fuel and pollutes the air, and it reduces the economic potential of our state.
Reducing congestion is my top transportation priority. To do this, we need to maximize the use of our transit infrastructure, but we also need to expand highway capacity. In the Washington area, no other project can do more to reduce crippling congestion than the Intercounty Connector.
The Intercounty Connector will relieve traffic congestion on some of the most congested roads in the Washington region. It will link the high-tech area in Montgomery County’s I-270 corridor to the Baltimore-Washington I-95 corridor. This link will power Maryland’s economy by making desirable job opportunities more accessible to ordinary citizens and skilled employees more available to Maryland’s high-tech businesses. The ICC also will be key to homeland security by providing a new route in case there needs to be an evacuation of part of metropolitan Washington. Simply put, construction of this road is an absolute priority for Maryland families, for Maryland businesses, and for me.
Since Day One of the Ehrlich administration, we have been focused on restarting the Intercounty Connector planning process. Decisions that we make today can shave years off this project, bringing relief closer to frustrated drivers in Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties.
The new Consolidated Transportation Program, for example, includes $2 million to restart the planning process for the Intercounty Connector. This is the first time since 1999 that the State has done any significant work on the project.
Our administration’s goal is to move the Intercounty Connector through the planning process as quickly as possible—while respecting environmental safeguards for wildlife, air and water quality. During my visit with President Bush at Camp David in February, I asked that the Intercounty Connector receive an expedited environmental review process. I am pleased that the President agreed to give the ICC this “shot in the arm” as we move through complicated planning procedures.
The project will be reviewed by a high-level task force of at least seven federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Transportation and the Interior. Staff will carefully consider all environmental requirements, but because all of these agencies will be at the table at the same time, they can review the project concurrently in order to more quickly resolve differences. This process will hopefully eliminate the bureaucratic inertia that stops many projects dead in their tracks.
Our team at the Maryland Department of Transpor-tation—lead by Secretary Robert L. Flanagan is meeting with federal officials to develop the environmental documentation for consideration by the task force. The new plan will highlight two arguments that were not included in an earlier draft study.
First, the road will be built in a more contemporary, environmentally-sensitive way than was proposed the last time the Intercounty Connector was studied. It is our goal to stabilize and improve environmental resources, including the streams the roadway must cross.
Second, the study will show how the Intercounty Connector supports the state’s Smart Growth policy by linking two areas of concentrated development.
Our team at the Maryland Department of Transportation is also ensuring that the right-of-way for the project is not consumed by development. Right-of-way acquisition can occur at the same time we are completing the planning process.
In the last election, the citizens of Maryland made it very clear that they wanted fundamental improvements in our transportation system. We live in an age when time at home with our families is precious. Our residents deserve a system that frees them from the traffic congestion that wastes too many hours of their lives. The Ehrlich administration is committed to delivering on this pledge.