ICC’s tolls here to stay -- Gazette.Net


The Maryland Transportation Authority has decided it will not lower tolls on the Intercounty Connector.

Earlier this month, County Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg called for the MDTA to decrease the tolls it charges travelers on the 18-mile freeway. Andrews proposed a 50 percent cut to be put in place for a year, in order to increase traffic on the ICC.

This week, the MDTA responded to Andrews’ proposal.

The tolls have been “adequately set” to generate revenue and traffic, the MDTA’s response read. “We respectfully decline the proposal to modify them at this time.”

In the letter, MDTA Acting Chairman Darrell B. Mobley said the ICC has eased congestion on nearby roadways.

“Average daily traffic on parallel corridors has decreased by 5 percent — likely due to the diversion to the ICC,” Mobley said.

Andrews said he plans to pursue the issue by reaching out to county organizations to endorse his proposal. He said the “heavily underused” road could still benefit from a lower toll.

A one-way trip can cost an E-ZPass-equipped car between 70 cents and $4 during the weekday rush hour, depending on the distance traveled. For large trucks like tractor trailers, tolls can reach $30 for the same trip.

“They’re pricing the ICC like it’s a bridge that can’t be avoided,” Andrews said.

The MDTA is also studying a mechanism to entice drivers: increasing the ICC’s speed limit.

A preliminary assessment of the freeway’s engineering showed that the speed limit could safely be raised from 55 to 60, The Baltimore Sun reported. But the results of the study will not be finalized until the MDTA can evaluate past accidents on the ICC for speed issues, said John Sales, a spokesman for MDTA. That report is scheduled to be released in January or February, he said.

For now, the ICC is seeing an expected rate of traffic growth, according to an MDTA release.

The average number of trips consistently rises above the MDTA’s projected numbers each month, usually surpassing them by a few thousand.

The MDTA projected December weekday traffic on the ICC to reach 20,598. The actual number of weekday trips taken exceeded 22,000 as of Dec. 28, according to data from the MDTA.

“Traffic is higher than projected on the western and center segments of the project, but is slightly lower than projected on the eastern end,” MDTA Executive Secretary Harold M. Bartlett said in a statement.

A final one-mile segment of the ICC, extending its eastern end from I-95 to US 1, is expected to open in late 2013 or early 2014.

Riders and drivers of Montgomery County: stuck in congestion on your morning commute? Seeing major delays on the Red Line? Send me a note at bumper@gazette.net.