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Perhaps funds for ICC project should have been spent elsewhere

June 17, 2012

If it hadn’t cost $2.56 billion and basically mortgaged the state¿s transportation future for a decade or more, the line about the new Intercounty Connector highway in the Washington Post last month might have been amusing, even funny:“What many people — fans and critics alike ¿ notice most about the ICC is what¿s missing: cars. The 18.8-mile road feels strikingly empty.”Supporters of the highway, which connects interstates 270 and 95, spin this to be a good thing. A highway instantly packed is a highway instantly outdated.Be that as it may, we sit out here in Western Maryland, where we have to sell our soul just to get an intersection upgrade, and see one more example of constricted state thinking.Annapolis too often defines Maryland as consisting of Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George¿s counties, the rest of the state just serving as taxable real estate that provides Annapolis with cash in the same way that greater Attica provided Athens with foodstuffs.While it¿s now moot, in our idle time we wonder how Washington County and the state as a whole might have benefited had one small sliver of this project cash been spent on a bridge over the Antietam Creek and an opening to commerce of the valuable, tax-generating property around the hospital and community college.Or how many dangerous curves across the state could have been straightened and how many lives saved with just a whisper of ICC construction money?Putting all your chips on one big mega-project at the expense of everything else will pay off now and again. But if it proves a bust, it just makes the resulting void in other areas seem all the larger. This is also a thought local leaders should consider as they prepare to put all their eggs in the basket of a new multiuse stadium. You can do that, but you need to be sure that you¿re right and that the project will not only be a success in and of itself, but will result in positive results throughout its sphere of influence.Unfortunately, early indications are that the Intercounty Connector will fall short on both counts. But, having drained the state transportation fund, there can be no question its effects will be felt throughout the state for years to come.

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