A "signature" bridge at New Hampshire Avenue helps maintain the view on neighborhood roadways intersected by the new ICC.
In less then two weeks, the second portion of the Intercounty Connector, running from Georgia Ave to Interstate 95, opens up to drivers. State officials like Maryland Transportation Authority executive secretary Harold Bartlett are expecting traffic to be very heavy on the new toll road.
"We're very confident that the second phase will be even more successful, because as you might suspect, the highway would have more use for folks when it connects both I-95 and I-270," says Bartlett.
Bartlett says traffic on the first part of the road is about 1 percent higher than they expected, but that's not stopping them from temporarily making the ICC free when phase two opens. From the opening morning on Nov. 22 until midnight Dec. 4, it will be free to drive on the new ICC. Starting Dec. 5, you have to pay the full toll.
The full toll will be $4 -- a figure that angered many when it was announced, as it makes the ICC one of the most expensive toll roads to drive in the country. Those who don't have an EZ Pass but still use the road will pay 150 percent of the toll, or $6 if they travel the full ICC.
Planners went to great lengths to stamp down another controversial aspect of the road -- its impact on surrounding communities. Melinda Peters is the ICC project manager. She says the amount of sound barriers along the road would cover 19 football fields.
Peters adds this portion also has two "signature" bridges at Georgia and New Hampshire Avenues: "A large portion of the cross streets go over the ICC. We worked to try to push the roadway down into the ground and maintain the existing roadways over top to try and minimize the visual impacts of the highway to the surrounding communities."
The first test of the new portion of the ICC will come during Thanksgiving, which falls during the road's free trial period for drivers. Harold Bartlett suspects many holiday travelers will enjoy the way it cuts down on travel time. He says a trip from Gaithersburg to BWI has gone from 71 minutes to 37.
Even with only the first portion open, using the ICC to get to BWI has been popular. John Leslie is a spokesman for the Maryland Transit Administration, which started running an express bus to BWI from the Shady Grove Metro station, where the ICC originates.
"We know that we are close to 4,000 users a day," says Leslie. "I think that's a pretty good endorsement."
The MTA runs four other routes on the road, serving areas such as Fort Meade and the Food and Drug Administration in White Oak.