ROCKVILLE – The ICC’s numbers are on target – depending on who you ask. Officials from the Maryland Department of Transit (MDTA) said traffic and revenue numbers during fiscal 2014 were on par with projected numbers but community activists said the current numbers are lower than the original projections from the MDTA because the numbers were changed multiple times during the last 10 years.
According to the final numbers for fiscal 2014, in combination with toll plazas on I-95, the ICC collected $174.5 million in tolls and 45,000 and 50,000 daily users rode the 18-mile highway connecting Route 1 in Prince George’s County and I-270 in Montgomery County. Annual ongoing operating costs for the highway are nearly $80 million.
“We’re feeling pretty good about where we stand. We are on point with traffic and revenue projections and there is steady growth in traffic on the ICC. We think that users are beginning to recognize its time-saving value,” said John Sales, spokesman for the MDTA.
During the gubernatorial campaign, both Governor-elect Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown told voters they would consider lowering tolls on the highway, which vary depending on the time of travel. A trip from Route 29 in Burtonsville to I-370 in Gaithersburg during rush hour is $3.20. Hogan has declined to discuss any policy issues until he takes office in January 2015.
Although a 2011 MDTA report recommends raising tolls biannually with the next toll increase scheduled for fiscal 2016, Sales said the MDTA does not plan to raise tolls for another six years.
Paul Jaronski, president of the Cherrywood Homeowners Association, a community near Olney, said he has never used the ICC. Before the ICC was completed, Jaronski and other members of the homeowners association rallied against the highway, saying the ICC was unnecessary, environmentally damaging and extraordinarily expensive. Jaronski said officials from the MDTA have not been transparent or honest about the costs or the projected revenue from the highway.
“The state highway is patting themselves on the back and saying their projections are correct but all they are really doing is twisting the truth,” Jaronski said. “They’re not really flat-out lying because they’re changing the numbers so they match the projection. It’s a lack of transparency, a lack of honesty. Everybody makes mistakes and clearly they had a huge mistake back in 2005 when they sold the ICC.”
Sales said the higher 2011 numbers are from a NEPA study completed by an independent consultant. The recession, county land use and the changing schedule for the ICC date of completion have affected projections of use and revenue, he said.
“We’re still seeing increases in revenue and traffic. It’s a part of that ramp-up period, it’s been open for three years and people are still getting used to it. There was a study done about the ICC and it found there were time savings and reliable benefits of the ICC, not just for those using the road but for people using local routes. They are cutting their travel time in half. I think there are more time-saving benefits that people are realizing,” Sales said.
The final mile and a half stretch of the ICC extending from I-95 to Route 1 in Prince George’s County opened in early November. Sales said the MDTA will release a new ICC-related study in mid-2015.