At a time when it seems the only news about transportation projects is that another one’s been shelved due to a lack of funding, it’s helpful to remember that there is a lot of good work out there that’s getting done.
And it’s even better when the project’s owners elect to share that news with the public.
A good example is the Maryland State Highway Administration’s new video Momentum, which appears on the website for the Inter County Connector (ICC) in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counities, just outside Washington, D.C.
The professionally produced four-minute video details the progress that the 18-mile, $2.6-billion design-build toll road has made in 2009, and some of the upcoming goals, including the opening of the first seven-mile segment later this year.
Momentum is a particularly appropriate title for a construction progress video, given that the project was stalled by debate over its community and environmental effects for nearly half a century before the last legal hurdle was cleared in late 2007.
It’s also no surprise that stream restorations, new parks and trails, and other environmental mitigation measures figure prominently in the video and other sections of the website.
Though the lawsuits appear to be a thing of the past, the ICC continues to attract controversy, such as when the preliminary tolling plan called for a peak rate of .35/mile, the highest rate in metropolitan DC. A trip along the entire route from the I-270/370 interchange in Gaithersburg to I-95 near Laurel at $6.15
Although the Maryland Transportation Authority, which will operate the ICC, emphasized that most trips be only a few miles, reductions were subsequently made to the minimum toll charge (two miles instead of three) and to the overnight rate.
It’s also refreshing to see a transportation agency communicate both the project’s importance and process with the public so well, rather than simply issuing press releases that differ little from engineering reports. Recent projects have taught us that the public likes to be engaged in the evolution of their infrastructure, whether it's context-senstive solutions or choosing a fast-track, get-it-done approach over incremental improvements, as Utah's motorists did with the I-15 Reconstruction project in the late 90s.
Not everyone in Maryland may be in love with the ICC, but no one can say they’re in the dark about what’s being done, and why.