“The future is now”; George Allen uttered those words when he took over the helm with the Washington Redskins. Let me preface this entry with the absolute truth. I am not a engineer, highway planner, social scientist or confirmed “tree hugger”. I hope Govenor Marty can step aside from his lock step with yesterday and think about this project.
I am but one man. I have thought about this and feel that we are in danger of continuing on a tragic path. The website for the proposed and approved road system states “The Inter-County Connector (ICC) will link existing and proposed development areas between the I-270/I-370 and I-95/US 1 corridors within central and eastern Montgomery County and northwestern Prince George’s County with a state-of-the-art, multi-modal east-west highway that limits access and accommodates the movement of passengers and goods.”
This supposition is based on the yesterday concept that automobiles and trucks are the best mode of movement for passengers and goods. These projections were founded in an environment that included gasoline at less than one dollar per gallon. The idea for the cross county connector made a lot of sense when no one considered that oil was not a limited fuel source. I don’t think many people understand that there is a limited supply of oil.
When the idea for the inter-county connector was first raised, Gaithersburg was a small agricultural town. King Farm was a farm. Burtonsville was a small crossroad. Laurel was a big city. Public transportation was used by a larger percentage of people to travel longer distances. It is a brave new world today and China and India have changed the fossil fuel consumption equation drastically.
Oil companies became more powerful. Road and paving contractors became more powerful. The influence of the dollar became more powerful. Special interests became more powerful. The interest of society and the people living in the area no longer were the prime concern for legislators.
This area is very close to the national arena. Our news and focus seems to fall on national issues. We, as a people, do not see what is occuring before our eyes.
The people that raised objections to the ICC were considered fringe elements. The 90 year old man that did not want to sell his house. Community leaders that did not want the highway in their area. Environmentalist that found every rare fish, frog , flora or fauna in jeapordy. They all spoke out and no one paid them any mind. The issue that was not raised was clearly… what about tomorrow and beyond?
No one stopped to think about 2020, 2030, 2040 and beyond. Charts were offered regarding traffic and flow and bridges and abutments. No one realized that our vision of tomorrow might have to include….no automobiles, no trucks, no buses.
Rail is rather efficient. A light rail system from here to there could accomplish the same goal. Of course, it would have to feed a central point that would be a public transportation hub. It would mean that less people might be on the road. It might even mean the cost of gas would go up more (nasty side light of decreased demand with fixed costs). I can not imagine oil companies using gasoline as a loss leader.
If Governer O’Malley does not have the cajones courage to step up and build for tomorrow, well maybe he could restrict his concrete legacy to buses and trucks.
It really is time to build the world we will live in rather than yet another monument to the world that used to be. I hate being the lonely guy in the crowd.
Why build a highway if no one can afford to use it?