Montgomery Councilmember Andrews Says ICC Will ‘Fail’ and be a
‘Boondoggle’ If MdTA’s Approved Toll Rates Stand
ROCKVILLE, Md., December 17, 2009—Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) today blasted the Maryland Transportation Authority for approving toll rates of $8.80 to $12.30 for rush-hour, end-to-end commutes on the Inter-County Connector (ICC).
"The ICC will be a boondoggle if the decision stands, because the $3 billion-plus highway [including debt financing] will fail to take significant traffic off other roads due to very high tolls," said Andrews.
“The Maryland Transportation Authority, whose members are appointed by the Governor, has decided that its job is to maximize revenue rather than to facilitate use of the ICC by the general public," said Andrews. "They seem to think that they have a captive audience; however, the ICC doesn’t traverse a body of water like the Bay Bridge, and it will compete against untolled roads. Governor O'Malley must do what is necessary to ensure that the Transportation Authority reverses its decision on ICC toll rates, and approves rates that don’t undermine the original purpose of the ICC, which was to take traffic off of other roads."
In November, the Montgomery County Council, which Andrews was president of at the time, unanimously voted to recommend that the Maryland Transportation Authority reduce the proposed ICC toll rates to not undermine use of the highway.
County Executive Isiah Leggett also expressed similar concerns in a letter to the State, as well as noting that tolls as high as $36 for peak-hour, one-way end-to-end trips by trucks could result in many trucks staying off the ICC and on local roads. Andrews said he agrees with Leggett concerns regarding the level of truck tolls.
Andrews said that the toll rates approved by the Transportation Authority were not anticipated by the State until 2030 in the ICC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.
“The willingness of the State to ditch its own anticipated ICC toll rates, which the State's own analysis found have a major impact on projected ICC use, is very troubling," said Andrews.
A toll sensitivity analysis done by the State for the Environmental Impact Statement found that use of the ICC would drop by approximately 10,000 drivers a day if toll rates were $4.68 versus $6.10.
“Toll rates of $8.80 to $12.30 per day will price many more people off of the ICC--people whose tax dollars are helping to build the ICC, and who would use it if toll rates were affordable.” said Andrews. “In addition, these very high toll rates will deter some who could afford the rates from using the highway, again contributing to congestion on local roads.”
Councilmember Andrews has long opposed the ICC as a poor use of scarce transportation dollars and for its severe environmental impact. In December 2005, he and other elected officials held a news conference to criticize the then-anticipated (in the State’s ICC Environmental Impact Statement) ICC toll rates of $7.20 for peak-hour, end-to-end commutes, stating that rates that high would discourage use.
Unlike any other road in Maryland, all lanes on the ICC will be tolled at all times. In addition, only Maryland State buses will be exempt from the tolls. Carpoolers will be charged the same tolls as single-occupancy drivers. In contrast, the County’s recommendation for widening I-270, which Andrews proposed, calls for adding two reversible lanes on I-270 from Shady Grove Road to Frederick County, and would allow buses, motorcycles and carpoolers free access to the congestion-priced lanes. Existing lanes on I-270 would remain untolled.
Andrews, and all other members of the Montgomery County Council, as well as County Executive Leggett, have repeatedly called on the state to raise the gasoline tax to help pay for needed transportation improvements and road maintenance.
“An increase in the gasoline tax is far preferable to building public roads that are exclusionary due to very high tolls, because the cost is shared by all drivers and keeps all public roads affordable to the public,” said Andrews.