By Jonathan Wilson
Maryland's Intercounty connector roadway, an 18-mile stretch between Gaithersburg and Laurel, will have some of the highest tolls in the country when it opens in the Fall of 2010. Maryland's Transportation Authority approved the plan today.
Today's vote means two-axle vehicles, 95 percent of the vehicles expected to use roadway, will have to pay somewhere between 25 and 35 cents per mile on the ICC during morning and afternoon rush hours, and between 20 and 30 cents during off peak times. Exact rates will be set by the fall of 2010.
The authority's approval was unanimous and came in spite of three-fourths of the public comment collected saying the high tolls were too high.
Authority Executive Secretary Ronald Freeland says the public should hold off on judging the tolls. "I think we're premature to really make a statement that rates are too high to attract customers--motorists," says Freeland.
Freeland says toll rates will be re-evaluated, but stresses that it will take five to ten years of operation before the ICC ramps up to its projected usage.
Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen says the authority needs to consider providing discounts to regular users of the road. The authority said such local preference is unconstitutional, but Floreen says there are ways to make discounts work.
"So, okay, don't limit them to Montgomery County residents --I'm fine with that, but make them available, like they have in other parts of the state of Maryland," says Floreen.
The board did add a lower overnight rate: from 11 p.m to 5 a.m, rates could be as low as 10 cents a mile.