Saturday, May 25, 2013 9:20 AM
Published on: Thursday, January 31, 2013
By Holden Wilen
ROCKVILLE - After a year of full operation critics of the InterCounty Connector say the ICC is nowhere near meeting its projected traffic goals, while proponents of the controversial 18.3 mile long highway admit the road won’t bring profits anytime soon, but is meeting projected traffic estimates.
John Sale, public affairs manager for the Maryland Transportation Authority, said he doesn’t expect the $2.56 billion, six-lane toll road to return profits any time soon.
“ICC revenues are not projected to exceed capital and operating costs for the foreseeable future,”Sale said.
In spite of the grim outlook, the MDTA issued a press release on Oct. 25, 2012, claiming the highway was meeting traffic volume projections and continuing to grow. According to the audited financial data for fiscal year 2012 reported in the press release, the ICC collected $19.73 million in revenue for 11.56 million trips, compared to a projected $18.71 million.
Skeptics of the ICC, such as Paul Jarosinski, dispute the MDTA’s claims of meeting projections, citing the empty roads commonly observed on the 18.3-mile highway. Jarosinski, transportation chairman for the Greater Olney Civic Association, said the MDTA changes its projections in an attempt to portray the ICC in a more positive light.
“The numbers are nowhere near (what the MDTA projected),” Jarosinski said. “Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody makes bad predictions. What’s worse is when you don’t admit it and they’re trying to say all along this is what they expected.”
According to the original projections made in 2009 by Wilbur Smith Associates, 24.03 million total trips were predicted to be made in 2012, with projected overall revenue of $43.5 million. Wilbur Smith Associates released revised revisions in 2011, which projected 18.56 million trips and $32.7 million in revenue.
When compared to the projections made in 2009, the ICC came $23.77 million short of its revenue prediction and 12.47 million trips short.
Jaronsiski, who said he never has and never will use the ICC, also said he questions the MDTA’s projections for weekday traffic volumes. When reading articles about the ICC, Jaronsiski said he noticed MDTA repeatedly changed its projections.
In a story published in the March 8 edition of the Sentinel, Lesli Leath, marketing coordinator for MDTA, said weekday traffic volumes for the ICC were expected to grow to 25,000-30,000 vehicles on average by the summer.
For November, Sale said weekday traffic ranged from 26,900 to 36,400 vehicles while the projections ranged from 25,100 to 34,500 vehicles. Overall, according to the audited financial data for fiscal year 2012, the actual weekday traffic was 31,595 vehicles, or 1,316 vehicles per hour or
“Those guys are lying through their teeth,” Jaronsiski said. “There are a couple publications out there where they were predicting 55,000 cars when (the ICC) was open all the way, and it’s still only running at 20,000. They were projecting 26,600 cars additional on Georgia Avenue as a result of the ICC when it opened. Now, two years later, they don’t even have that much.”
The ICC also created news this past year when the eight bridges on the first two segments were repaired because of hairline cracks found in the concrete. The first segment of the highway goes from I-270 to MD-97, and the second segment runs from MD-97 to U.S-29.
Ray Feldmann, senior communications and media manager for the ICC Project Management Office, said all eight bridges on the first two segments of the ICC had to be repaired. The contractors for the first two segments completely covered the cost for repars, Feldmann said, creating no additional cost for the taxpayers.
In addition to bridges on the first two segments of the highway, Feldmann said two bridges have been identified on the third segment, which connects to I-95, which might have the same issue and need repairs.
“We are currently working with the contractor looking at the bridges and looking at the design,” Feldmann said. “At some point soon we will make a final determination about whether we think those two bridges need the same type of repair or whether they’re fine.”
Another issue which has come up recently with the ICC is whether or not to increase the speed limit on the highway from 55 miles per hour to 60 miles per hour. According to Sale, 21,714 warnings and 9,601 citations for speeding were issued by MDTA Police on the ICC/MD 200 between Nov. 2011 and Nov. 2012.
Sale said a decision on whether or not to increase the speed limit is expected within the next month.