Agreement Removes Final Legal Hurdle for the Intercounty Connector; Enhances Environmental Stewardship Programs
BALTIMORE (Nov. 17, 2008)—The Maryland Department of Transportations (MDOT) State Highway Administration (SHA) announced today that it has reached an agreement with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) that removes the final legal challenge facing the Intercounty Connector (ICC). The EDF has withdrawn its appeal of a November 2007 U.S. District Court ruling, after SHA agreed to augment its extensive environmental stewardship program with two additional air quality programs.
Advancing scientific understanding of fine particle pollution (PM 2.5) generated by vehicles traveling on highways is the goal of the first element of the settlement. SHA will sponsor a three-year study valued at up to $1 million that involves installing air quality monitors along a major highway selected for its similar characteristics to the ICC and I-95. This will help all highway agencies to better understand the various sources that generate PM 2.5.
The settlement is yet another facet of the unprecedented environmental protection and stewardship that is a hallmark of the ICC project, said SHA Administrator Neil J. Pedersen. The ICC will be one of the greenest highways in history. The new air quality programs extend SHAs commitment to go above and beyond what is required to enhance the region overall.
The second aspect of the agreement will directly reduce air quality pollution in Maryland. SHA will provide up to $1 million to retrofit diesel school buses in Montgomery County with exhaust systems that reduce emissions and will work with the school system to develop a program to reduce idling.
The two air quality programs in the settlement will strengthen the ICCs $370 million mitigation and stewardship package already more than 15 percent of the ICCs total cost. The package includes an unprecedented level of compensatory mitigation to replace and enhance the impacted segments of the environment and communities, as well as fund more than 60 Environmental Stewardship projects to correct environmental problems caused by decades of past development in Montgomery and Prince Georges counties problems that are unrelated to the ICC itself.
In December 2006, two lawsuits were filed against the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), charging violations of federal law in the preparation of the ICC Environmental Impact Statement. While the State of Maryland was not named in those suits, it motioned to intervene in the lawsuits. The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland-Greenbelt Division approved the request and consolidated the two suits into one.
On November 8, 2007, the court ruled in favor of SHA and FHWA on all counts. United States District Court Judge Alexander Williams, Jr., ruled that, there is no legal or equitable basis to prevent the Intercounty Connector from moving forward.
In January 2008, two of the three plaintiffs appealed the courts decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In September 2008, one of the plaintiffs voluntarily withdrew its appeal, leaving EDF as the sole remaining appealing plaintiff.
The ICC will be a state-of-the-art, multi-modal, toll facility that will link existing and proposed development areas between the I-270 and I-95/US 1 corridors within central and eastern Montgomery County and northwestern Prince George's County. The limited access, east-west highway is designed to relieve congestion, reduce travel time and improve safety on the local road network.
Contracts to build 17.9 miles of the 18.8-mile ICC are underway, representing $1.5 billion in work. As of the end of September, approximately $569 million of the project budget has been spent and ICC construction workers have logged more than 560,000 labor hours. The highways west end from I-270 to MD 97 (Georgia Avenue) will open fall 2010 with the remaining segments in fall 2011, or early 2012.
Source: Maryland Department of Transportation
Intercounty Connector Project