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Milestone approaching for Intercounty Connector

Friday - 10/7/2011, 1:59pm  ET

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- Taking a ride between I-270 in Shady Grove and I-95 in Laurel without using the Beltway or local roads will soon be an option, as the controversial Intercounty Connector in Maryland is about to hit a huge milestone.

According to Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley, the next segment of the road -- which will connect Georgia Avenue in the Olney area to I-95 in Laurel -- is scheduled to open before the end of the year.

That means, for the first time, drivers will be able to hop on the ICC at I-270/I-370 and get off at I-95, and vice-versa. Right now, the only stretch of the road open is between the I-270 corridor and Georgia Avenue/Norbeck Road.

"Remaining work (on the next contract) includes tolling system/gantry operations, signage, minimal paving, etc.," writes Kelly Melhem with the Maryland Transportation Authority.

As far as the number of people who are using the road right now, drivers seem to be warming up to the new route.

Comparing the traffic counts from the first full week tolls were collected on the road (between I-270 and Georgia Avenue) to last week's figures, about 3,000 more cars per day now are using the ICC. That's 3,000 cars taken off of other roads -- one of the reasons for building the thoroughfare.

If you take the Intercounty Connector when it opens, you'll have to pay a fee but not at a toll booth. You'll need an E-ZPass transponder, since the road is Maryland's first all-electronic, variably-priced roadway.

When it is fully finished, the ICC will be 18.8 miles.

Estimates from the MDTA show that less than 5 percent of traffic would actually ride the ICC for its entire length between Gaithersburg and Laurel. But with the current numbers, a one-way trip along the entire tolled portion of the roadway could cost as much as $6.15 during peak hours and $5.30 during off-peak hours. Shorter trips would cost less.

If you drive the ICC without an E-ZPass, you'll get a bill in the mail along with a $3 service charge.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)