Looking for Traffic Adventure on the ICC

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCWashington.com
    Photo by Kimberly Suiters

    There were 10,000 trips taken in the first eight hours of open highway on the Intercounty Connector -- otherwise known as the ICC or Rt. 200.

    It's hard to say how many unique drivers that huge number represents. Our crew alone accounted for at least 20 of them.

    ICC Opens

    [DC] ICC Opens
    After years of waiting the Intercounty Connector (ICC) is now open to traffic. News4's Kimberly Suiters traveled the new road with the News4 Commuter Cam.

    A good friend of mine who watched us report live from inside a moving car for two and half hours this morning said the Steppenwolf song, "Born to be Wild," came to mind.

    Yes, we took the road in a love embrace.

    ICC Noise

    [DC] ICC Noise
    Derrick Ward reports that neighbors are worried about the traffic noise from the Intercounty Connector.

    Wild wasn't exactly the sensation driving down the 7.2-mile stretch of the ICC, opened Wednesday after a snow delay the day before. Cruising back and forth from Shady Grove to Rockville, I felt a little like a kid on a new roller coaster, especially when we passed under the elegant white arched overpass (see photo above).

    Not everyone is happy about the ICC. First, there's the money. The first stretch cost $478 million to build. In all, the 18.8-mile toll road will ring up a $2.6 billion price tag. But it won't be paid for. You'll pay to ride with an EZ-Pass only. No cash. Depending on traffic volume, you will be charged anywhere from .60 to $1.45. And if you try to ride for free, you'll get "inspiration" sent to you in the form of a $3 service charge along with the normal fee.

    You can ride for free until March 6. You can get away with not using an EZ-Pass 'til April 6. Then the wild ride is over.

    For some, it never really started. Maryland State Highway police were out in full force the moment the road opened. And they weren't just cruising. They were ticketing. Commuters who got their motors running faster than 55 mph found out the test drive was not all that cheap.

    We stopped at a Starbucks to ask commuters in Gaithersburg whether they planned to check it out.

    Marcia, who didn't want to give her last name, said she would not: "It's not going in the directions I need it to go."

    Walt Harris told us he wouldn't drive it until it connects to I-95.
    "Then I definitely will," he said.

    Mike Hanrahan, who may have been influenced by one too many espresso shots, told us he was gonna make it happen.

    "Are you going now?" we asked.

    "No, later, when I head to the office," Mike said, taking one step backward.

    "Oh, you're afraid we're going to jump in your car with you," we noted.

    "My car's not big enough! There's not enough room!" Mike shouted, staring down our photographer, the giant camera on his shoulder, and an even bigger spotlight overhead.

    Our feelings weren't hurt.

    Even though parts of the ICC felt like they could use another layer of smooth pavement, the road structures -- from the barriers to the bridges -- are actually attractive.

    We made the mistake of looking down at the GPS and noticing the positioner had us ... well, exploding into space. The ICC doesn't exist on GPS yet, so the cursor flies across a forest, and a true nature child would be reminded of all the trees that were cut down and the environmental impact on the area.

    That and the noise are two other complaints local residents have launched about Rt. 200.

    But it is convenient, in most places. Entering from the west, you can't turn left on to the ICC yet from Norbeck Road. Likewise, there's no access to Georgia Avenue from westbound lanes. But when we drove between the same points on parallel roads, we were stopped by red lights, school buses, and even slower speed limits. A trip on back roads took almost 20 minutes. The ICC took 8.

    So it was an assignment to drive. For three hours. But sometimes you've just got to look for adventure in whatever comes your way.