Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hairline Cracks! Maryland to Rebuild Parts of ICC? // Plus, Leggett Calls for Private Purple Line Funding, ACT Responds

Oh boy. Just when you thought the Inter-County Connector (ICC) was finally winding down as an issue, the Washington Post drops this bomb:
Inspectors have found hairline cracks in three newly built overpasses on the Intercounty Connector, requiring that parts of their concrete piers be reinforced immediately and perhaps rebuilt, ICC officials said Tuesday.
Indeed, few issues have proved as politically divisive in Montgomery County as the ICC, so I'm sure many folks (on both sides) were relieved to see the controversy dying down. The calm was settling in for many folks mainly because the highway really is a done deal now -- it is open for drivers. That's why today's news will likely pick open an ugly scab for some policymakers. State officials said the highway is still safe to drive on and blamed the cracks on design flaws:
Some lanes of the ICC will likely be closed over the next two weeks as workers reinforce the pier structures with tensioned steel wire until a long-term solution can be found, ICC officials said. All three bridges will remain open, they said. 
...inspectors found 40 to 50 concrete cracks total in all of the three overpasses’ combined 13 “pier caps.” Those concrete caps sit atop the supporting piers and connect them to the overpasses’ steel understructure. The cracks are .005 to .035 inches wide and range from seven inches to 3 feet 8 inches long...
The unfortunate thing is, this news comes right as the State looks again to raise much-needed transportation revenues for non-highway projects like the Baltimore Red Line, Prince George's & Montgomery's Purple Line, and MoCo's biotech oriented light rail project, the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT).

In fact, County Executive Ike Leggett took time off from curfew promotion this week to discuss redistricting and the Purple Line with Annapolis lawmakers. The Examiner reports:
Montgomery and Prince George's counties will need an infusion of private funds to build the Purple Line, as state and federal funds for transportation projects grow increasingly scarce, according to Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.
The article suggests that some are exploring a quasi-public-private Purple Line. The Action Committee for Transit's Vice President Ben Ross provided this email response:
Drivers are already heavily subsidized by transit riders, and we shouldn't make it worse.  The state must commit to paying the non-federal share of both the Purple Line and the Baltimore Red Line - this is the only way to make sure these two urgently needed projects are built. 
The state never taxed adjoining land to build interstate highways - why should transit riders be treated as second-class?  If we want people who profit from transportation projects to start paying the bills, the first step is to send Kingdon Gould the bill for the ICC instead of raising tolls on middle-income Marylanders.
Mr. Ross was referring to Kingdon Gould's role as developer of Konterra, a project located near the eastern end of the ICC. Hmm. More on this soon!

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