The first segment of the first (and likely last) major new highway to be built in the Washington, DC region in 30 years opened last week. It's called the ICC - the InterCounty Connector - and when completely finished it will eventually go from Gaithersburg to Laurel, connecting the I-270 and I-95 corridors. The goal was to make a more direct connection between the wealthy and fast growing Gaithersburg area of Montgomery County with Baltimore and Prince George's County.
The ICC is a toll road, but there are no toll booths. Instead, overhead toll gantries read cars as they pass under and, depending on whether or not each car has an EZpass, either charges the EZpass or sends a bill in the mail to the registered owner according to a picture taken of the car's license plate.
The segment that opened last week is only about half the length. The eastern portion of the road is still under construction, so only the part from Gaithersburg to a little past Georgia Avenue is available.
There are lots of problems with ICC, as with any major new highway. Intellectual discussions about the wisdom of building highways aside, however, it's certainly notable when such major new pieces of infrastructure open. So I had a friend pick me up at the Metro station that's right at one end of the ICC and drive me down its length (and then back) so I could take pictures.
Here they are:
This first picture is on I-370 as we pull out of the Shady Grove Metro station parking lot.
Exiting on to the ICC:
And here we go, headed east. 100% new asphalt.
Approaching Redland Road.
The eastbound toll gantry, with info board in front.
At one point the ICC slips through a residential neighborhood, with houses close by on both sides. To mitigate the effect the state agreed to put the highway in a short tunnel, and cap it with a park
. Here's the tunnel.
Still driving eastbound, we pass the westbound toll gantry. Good opportunity to zoom in and get a good look.
Still headed eastbound, coming up on Georgia Avenue (MD-97).
Georgia Avenue. If you follow this south it goes into DC and eventually becomes 7th Street, one of the more important streets downtown.
One exit past Georgia Avenue the highway temporarily ends, at Norbeck Road.
Construction is ongoing for the eastern portion of the highway, but for now everybody has to get off.
The temporary end of the highway is on what will eventually be the off-ramp at Norbeck Road. When the highway is done this will be a one-way exit, but for the time being it's a two-way ramp that also serves as the entrance for westbound traffic. It's a bad choke point and is already congested.
Up on Norbeck Road, looking east at the still-under-construction part of the ICC:
... And turn around to get right back on.
Headed back westbound now, near Emory Lane.
Hey! We didn't get one of these on the other side.
Coming up on the westbound toll gantry. It's looking a little imposing.
Here's that tunnel again.
Coming up on Shady Grove Road and the Metro.
Instead of exiting, we blow by and head for I-270. After the Metro exit, the ICC ceases to be a toll road and becomes I-370 for 3 miles.
On I-370, approaching I-270. Sorry for the bad quality, the sun was right in front of us and, y'know, we were going pretty fast.
And finally, the I-270 interchange.