OLNEY, Md. (WUSA) -- The first section of the Intercounty Connector highway in Maryland opened to drivers Wednesday morning after more than half a century of planning, debating, cancellations, lawsuits, fights, and construction.
The first seven miles of the highway opened ahead of schedule. "We were able to open the westbound lanes this morning at 1:15, and we opened the eastbound lanes at 3:20," said Harold Bartlett, the acting executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority. "The first car came through at 3:30."
The first stretch of the ICC connects Interstates 270 and 370 with the Shady Grove Metro Station and Georgia Avenue (Maryland Route 97). There will be a temporary interchange at Norbeck Road (Maryland Route 28), which will allow drivers to proceed east towards Route 198 and Interstate 95. That interchange will close when the remainder of the highway opens in late 2011 or early 2012.
Eventually the ICC will continue eastbound to Layhill Road (Route 182), New Hampshire Avenue (Route 650), U.S. Route 29, and Interstate 95. Bartlett believes the time savings will be great for drivers heading from western Montgomery County towards Baltimore. "For example, the travel time to BWI will go from 70 minutes on local roads to about 35 minutes if you take the ICC," he told 9NEWS NOW.
The speed will come with a cost. For the first section of the ICC, a one-way rush hour toll (weekdays 6am-9am and 4pm-7pm) will be $1.45 for cars. For overnight drivers, the toll will be 60 cents between 11pm and 5am. At all other times, cars will pay $1.15 each way. Trucks and vehicles with more than two axles will pay more. The road will be toll-free until 12:01am on March 7. When the entire highway opens, a rush hour trip between I-95 and Gaithersburg will cost just over $6.00.
Tolls will be collected electronically through an EZ Pass transponder. There are no toll booths. Instead, overhead gantries will scan your EZ Pass at highway speeds. If you do not have an EZ Pass, a bill will be sent to the vehicle's registered owner, along with a $3 service charge. That fee will not begin until April 6. EZ Pass transponders are available at Maryland Transportation Authority offices or at Motor Vehicle (MVA) offices in Gaithersburg and Beltsville.
One big question: what to call the road? It has been known on planning maps as the ICC for decades. However, many signs will direct drivers to Maryland Route 200. "We call it both," Bartlett said. "It's official Maryland tag is 'Maryland 200.' But I think people know it affectionately as 'the ICC.'"
Written by Dan Guzman
9NEWS NOW & wusa9.com