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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Intercounty Connector Air Study Wastes Maryland State Money

Although the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) federal lawsuit failed to stop the Intercounty Connector (ICC) from being constructed on environmental grounds, the group did get a settlement agreement that requires the Maryland State Highway Administration to spend $2 million to monitor air quality near the Capital Beltway.  The agreement also included a provision to reduce diesel air pollution from Montgomery County school buses. 

The Center supported the ICC proposal and continues to support the project. The air monitoring requirement is a waste of money because the region is already required to monitor air quality.  The ICC will help move traffic in the Washington, DC region more efficiently and that will reduce air pollution.  Moreover, the ICC will help families spend more time together by reducing rush hour gridlock.  In fact, the Washington Metropolitan Area needs an outer beltway.  The Center supported the Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement and the accompanying interchange improvements.  Those improvements, along with the Mixing Bowl development, will go far in easing congestion in the region, thus improving air quality.

We applaud the agreement requiring Maryland to spend $1 million to install exhaust filters on 70 diesel school buses.  Again, we wish the state has saved the $1 million to collect three years of data from a new air-quality monitor near the Beltway and Route 214 in Prince George's County. Although the results could determine how much people near highways are exposed to unhealthy particles and droplets of chemicals in vehicle emissions, such monitoring is already required.  And the region has bad air days according to requirements under the Clean Air Act. The filters, which cost $15,000 each, trap about 95 percent of a bus's pollution. Since newer buses arrived with filters built in and some older buses have been retrofitted,about 60 percent of Montgomery's fleet now has the filters.


The $2 million is part of the ICC's $2.56 billion construction budget. The six-lane highway will connect the Interstate 270 corridor in Montgomery County with the Interstate 95 corridor in Laurel, in northwestern Prince George's County. (Wash Post, 1/1/2011)

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