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John Townsend
Public Relations Manager, DC
O: (202) 481-6820 (ext. 4462108)
C: (202) 253-2171
jtownsend@aaamidatlantic.com

WASHINGTON, D. C. (Wednesday, November 29, 2017) ––The Intercounty Connector (ICC/Maryland Route 200 Toll) Corridor emerged as the second busiest toll facility in Maryland during 2016, with motorists racking up a combined total of 30 million trips on the all-electronic tollway. For perspective, the number of trips on the ICC is five times the population of Maryland. If it is true that “nothing succeeds like success,” motorists are expected to take 32.5 million trips cumulatively at entry points and exits points along the ICC during 2017, its sixth year of operation. Historical traffic trends reveal vehicular traffic more than doubled on key ICC segments from 2012 to 2016. The ICC’s traffic spiked 24.3 percent, and its toll revenue increased six percent in 2016. More ICC drivers are experiencing the joys of cutting their travel times in half, compared to the normal time it takes them to drive to their destinations via other local east-west routes.

 

From the moment it was etched on the drawing board six decades ago, the ICC was the focal point of controversy, political roadblocks, widespread cynicism and legal maneuvering. Then there were the fierce debates and folderol that divided homeowners and business owners near its proposed path, and the bitter and protracted wrangling over its environmental impact and its $2.6 billion price tag. Even its harshest foes would have to concede the ICC outperforms forecasts. It is the “little turnpike that could,” both in terms of its surging daily traffic volumes in Montgomery County and in Prince George’s County and the toll revenues it generates.

 

“The first leg of the Intercounty Connector (ICC/MD 200) debuted to the motoring public in 2011. Now it is outpacing the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, the Bay Bridge, the Nice Bridge, and I-95 Express Toll Lanes near Baltimore in traffic volume. It is only eclipsed by the Fort McHenry Tunnel in traffic volume. It is a remarkable feat for a roadway first planned in 1955, then derided, and finally built amid opposition,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public & Government Affairs. “Despite the postulations of naysayers and presuppositions of skeptics, some ICC interchanges are topping 53,000 daily trips or questing, on average. Day by day, the ICC is siphoning more traffic off the Capital Beltway, and other roads, corridors and wyes near its pathway, including on Interstates 270 and 370, and I-95 and U.S. 1.”

 

Motorists took 29.98 million trips on the ICC in 2016, compared to the 24.12 million trips they undertook on the tollway in 2015, according to a May 2017 report. Along its eight tolling gantries, the ICC experienced a 24.3 percent growth in traffic volume from 2015 to 2016, reports the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA). The number of trips on the ICC is expected to grow to 32.49 million in 2017, a projected 8.4 percent growth in trips. “From July 2016 to February 2017, ICC actual trips and revenue were 1.7 percent and 0.6 percent above forecasts, respectively,” forecasts by CDM Smith show. Looking in the rear view mirror, more than 17.2 million trips were made on MD 200 between July 2012 and June 2013.”

 

Along with daily traffic growth, toll revenue on the ICC/MD 200 Corridor, from Konterra Drive to 1-370 at Shady Grove to MD 97/Georgia Avenue in Rockville/Olney, increased from $56.02 million in 2015 to $59.31 million in 2016, comprising a 5.9 increase in revenue year over year.  It is projected the ICC will collect $64.08 million in toll revenue in 2017. If so, revenue generated by the table of tolls will grow at an eight percent clip year over year, according to revenue forecasts by CDM Smith, a transportation engineering firm. In contrast, toll revenue on the William Preston Lane (Bay) Bridge plummeted 34.99 percent from FY15 to FY16. Over the two most recent budget cycles, toll revenue on the Bay Bridge dropped from $80.3 million to $52.2 million, a loss of $28.1 million in toll revenue. However, its traffic volume was up 3.24 percent.

 

 The Table of Tolls: The Intercounty Connector (ICC/Maryland Route 200 Toll)          

 

ICC

AADT

 

2012

 

2013

 

2014

 

2015

 

2016

 

Change

2012-2016

 

I 370 to

MD 97

 

28,861

 

34,640

 

39,842

 

45,754

 

51,852

 

22,991+

80%

 

MD 97 to

MD 182

 

26,551

 

33,395

 

39,312

 

46,017

 

52,740

 

26,189+

99%

 

MD 182 to

MD 650

 

26,517

 

33,434

 

39,561

 

46,656

 

53,588

 

27,071+

102%

 

MD 650 to US 29

 

24,979

 

31,892

 

38,028

 

45,448

 

52,343

 

27,364+

110%

 

US 29 to

Prince George’s Co/L

 

20,171

 

25,874

 

31,039

 

38,163

 

44,145

 

23,974+

119%

 

Montgomery CO/L

to I-95

 

20,171

 

25,874

 

31,039

 

38,163

 

44,145

 

23,974+

119%

 

I-95 to

US 1

 

7,154

 

9,119

 

1,965+

27%

 

 

Daily traffic on the Intercounty Connector (ICC/MD 200) is exceeding all wistful initial expectations. The ICC boasts six toll gantries per direction covering movements between nine interchanges. From 2012 to 2016, motorists, commercial vehicles, motor coaches, and motorcyclists traversing the ICC/MD 200 witnessed a 119 percent surge in company both along the segments of corridor from U.S. 29 to the Prince George’s County line and from the Montgomery County line to I-95 within Prince George’s County.  ICC users are no longer traveling by their lonesome on the stretch from MD 650 to U.S. 29. In size and scale, and by a specified amount, they saw traffic volume spike by 110 percent from 2012 to 2016, according to traffic count data.

 

Of note, the ICC experienced its “heaviest interchange volume” near its connections to “other limited-access highways, including I-95, US 29, I-370, and Shady Grove Road.” In the one-year period from 2015 to 2016, traffic volume increased along major junctions from the west end of the ICC at I-370 in Gaithersburg to its east end at U.S. 1 in Laurel. For example, daily travel volume spiked by nearly seven thousand vehicles per day on the stretch of the ICC from Maryland Route 182 in the Aspen Hill area to MD 650 (New Hampshire Avenue). It comprises a proportionate increase of 14.8 percent in daily traffic outings on the stretch, as the count hiked from 46,565 vehicles per day to 53,588 vehicles each workday, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic’s review of traffic count trends. Traffic counting provides a “picture of traffic flow and trends.”

 

Back in 2012, the segment saw 26,517 passenger-vehicles and commercial vehicles laden with goods and produce each day. It represents a 102 percent sea-change in daily traffic volume from 2012 to 2016 from the interchange segment in Aspen Hill to the interchange segment in Colesville. Traffic volume has intensified by a rate of 27,071 additional vehicles per day. That is according to a review by AAA Mid-Atlantic of Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADTdata tabulated by the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA). 

 

The ICC is not expected to reach its designed carrying capacity until 2030. Until then, travel will be relatively congestion-free. Remarkably, vehicular volume mushroomed by a quotient of 118.8 percent from 20,171 vehicles daily in 2012 to 44,145 vehicles per day in 2016 on the segment of the Intercounty Connector from the Prince George’s County/Montgomery County line to I-95. It comprises a daily upsurge of an additional 23,974 vehicles in the five-year period. Traffic volume grew from 38,163 vehicles per day in 2015 to 44,145 vehicles daily. It has all the makings of a 15.6 percent uptick in daily traffic quantity year over year, according to AADT data. Performed by electronic counting instruments, it is analogous to a “census count.”

 

What is more, traffic volume on the ICC from U.S. 29 in Montgomery County to the Prince George’s County line spiked from 38,163 vehicles per day in 2015 to 41,145 vehicles daily in 2016, an addition of 6,982 more vehicles per day year over year, quantitatively comprising a daily traffic count increase of 15.6 percent.  In 2012, that stretch of the ICC attracted 20,171 vehicles per day. The counts are average Monday through Friday 24-hour volumes. Over the span of four years, annualized average traffic volume skyrocketed by an additional 23,974 vehicles per day, or a staggering 118.8 percentage point increase.

 

Arithmetic traffic volume more than doubled on the ICC from MD 650 to U.S. 29 over a five year period, from 24,979 vehicles in 2012 to 52,343 vehicles daily in 2016, which works out to a 109.5 percent increase. The daily volume of vehicular traffic burgeoned from 45,448 vehicles in 2015 to 52,343 vehicles a year later in 2016, as users shared the roadway real estate with 6,895 more vehicles daily, year over year, as continuous traffic counts on an average weekday rose by a ratio of 15.1 percent in average daily traffic.

 

For perspective, vehicle traffic load on “the west end of the ICC facility averaged about 41,000 vehicles daily in 2014.” Curiously, as to trip purposes and questing, nearly 64 percent of the trips along the ICC corridor, which spans from northern Prince George’s County to across central Montgomery County, were non-work-related trips, while 36 percent of the trips undertaken were work-related, according to a survey of passenger-vehicle travelers. The MDTA surmises this “implies that the corridor is commonly used for infrequent travel, but still supports a broad mixture of trip purposes throughout the week.”

 

One troubling trend has dogged the ICC since its inception, as drivers and scofflaws continue to rack up unpaid fines. Motorists traveling the ICC aren’t required to stop and deposit the allusive “Charon’s obol coins” in toll booths, there aren’t any. Tolls are collected at “highway speed as motorists drive under tolling structures.” Reportedly, 4.7 million video toll violations occurred on the ICC in 2016, notes The Maryland Reporter. It is a perennial problem. In 2012, nearly one in three drivers, including passenger-vehicle travelers and commercial vehicle drivers, who entered ICC without a de rigueur E-ZPass® transponder, did not subsequently pay the required toll later, The Washington Post reported. The civil penalty for such violations was set at $50 by the MDTA to discourage users from using toll roads in the state without paying the requisite toll fees, explains the Maryland General Assembly Department of Legislative Services

 

The six-lane tolled freeway opened to fanfare and to the eagerly awaiting motoring public in stages. “The first 5.65-mile tolled segment of the ICC from I-370 at Shady Grove to MD 97/Georgia Avenue in Rockville/Olney opened February 23, 2011,” the MDTA chronicles. “The roadway from Georgia Avenue to I-95 (Exit 31) at Laurel opened November 22, 2011. The roadway opened to US 1 on November 9, 2014.”

Stretching 18.8 miles lengthwise, the ICC, the most expensive toll road in the state, connects Gaithersburg in Montgomery County and Laurel in Prince George’s County. The Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) report tracked average daily traffic on Maryland roadways for the six-year period from 2010 to 2016, including on Route 200, the Intercounty Connector. The study was released April 24, 2017.

 

Motorists continue to shave commute times. Tolls on the ICC range from “$0.40 to $3.86 for E-ZPass® customers, depending on the length of the trip,” explains the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA). Toll rates drop during star-stilled overnight hours, and off-peak hours, when traffic counts drop along the ICC. Tolls on the ICC are much higher for commercial vehicles, such as semi-trucks, large box trucks, motor coaches, and buses, based on the number of axles. “Tolls vary to help manage traffic volumes with a higher toll charged during peak hours and a lower toll charged during off-peak and overnight hours,” the authority explains. The MDTA “owns, operates and maintains the ICC and the state’s seven other toll facilities.”

 

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