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Full Intercounty Connector to open in two weeks

Wednesday - 11/9/2011, 1:45pm  ET

WTOP/Adam Tuss
The full length of the all-electronic toll road will open Nov. 22. (WTOP/Adam Tuss)
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Adam Tuss, wtop.com

LAUREL, Md. - In just about two weeks, drivers will be able to get a crack at a road that's been on the drawing board for decades.

The full Intercounty Connector in Maryland opens to traffic Nov. 22. For the first time, the 18.8-mile road will connect the I-370/I-270 corridor in Gaithersburg to the I-95 corridor in Laurel.

On Wednesday, reporters got an up-close look at the newest stretch of the road between Georgia Avenue and I-95.

"It's very exciting," Melinda Peters, project manager for the ICC, said while on an open, pristine stretch of the highway.

Regarding the travel benefit of the road, Maryland transportation leaders say it could cut some trip times in half.

"The highway has more use for folks (because it now) connects I-95 and I-270," said Harold Bartlett, executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority. "The time savings will be very significant, cutting the travel time, for example, from Gaithersburg to BWI Marshall Airport from 71 minutes to 37 minutes."

Bartlett said the road may give others back an hour of time previously wasted in traffic.

For the first 13 days after it opens, the full ICC will be free for drivers. But on Dec. 5, tolls will start being collected. If a driver wants to make the entire trip between Gaithersburg and Laurel, it'll cost $4 during rush hours.

In February of this year, the first section of the ICC opened between the I-370 corridor and Georgia Avenue and Norbeck Road. Bartlett says traffic counts are pretty much expected to double when the next segment opens.

"Right now we are running just under about 15,000 vehicles a day (on the first segment). As soon as we open the next segment, our expectation is that number will climb from about 15,000 to 25,000," Bartlett said. "And by the June of 2012 time period, we're hoping for somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000.

"So even if you don't take the ICC, you will benefit from the people that do."

Because the full road is opening right before the Thanksgiving holiday, officials think there initially could be some extra crowding.

Three new Maryland Transit Administration bus routes also are opening along with the new stretch. They are expected to connect key business centers between Frederick and College Park.

Drivers should remember that the ICC is an all-electronic toll road. There are no toll booths -- tolls instead are tacked on using an E-ZPass. If a driver uses the road and does not have an E-ZPass, an image of the vehicle's license plate will be taken and the driver will face a service charge of 150 percent of the toll charged.

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