Lawsuit Seeks to Prolong 40-Year Delay on Maryland Highway

Published March 1, 2007

Forty-plus years of delays in building a vital highway connector between I-270 and I-95 in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in Maryland should be extended because government officials failed to sufficiently assess more environment-friendly alternatives, four environmental activist groups alleged in a December 20 lawsuit.

Activists Want More Study

The activist groups–Environmental Defense, the Sierra Club, Audubon Naturalist Society, and Maryland Native Plant Society–assert government officials improperly failed to consider such “reasonable alternatives” as building mass transit and improving local roads as an alternative to the highway connector.

The activists also claimed the connector would result in noise levels that would unacceptably disrupt open lands.

“From the beginning, the ICC [Intercounty Connector] study failed to consider alternatives that could better solve congestion. This violates federal laws requiring a fair look at other ways to solve problems,” Neal Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Audubon Naturalist Society, said in a press statement. “When you cut through the political rhetoric offered by state officials, the ICC is a poor performer. It does little to relieve congestion and does not justify the massive community and environmental damage it causes.”

Washington Post Says Build It

“Most officials in Maryland understand that the planned intercounty connector, possibly history’s most studied road, has been examined and assessed ad nauseam and approved,” countered the December 21 Washington Post, rarely an opponent of environmental activist groups.

The Post noted that prior to the lawsuits the Montgomery County Planning Board was the only government agency holding up road construction.

“Maybe the board members are also awaiting a bolt of lightning or some other heavenly sign before they give the go-ahead for the road, which would connect two vital corridors in the Maryland suburbs,” the Post chided.

“While they wait, they might consider that the connector has been on the drawing board since the 1950s; that it has been the subject of exhaustive efforts to mitigate possible environmental impacts; that the state and federal governments have given it the green light; that financing is in place; and that the 87 acres in dispute have been purchased, preserved, and set aside for the roadway over the course of three decades,” added the Post.

Highway Would Cut Pollution

Dispensing with the assertion that the proposed highway connector would add pollution to the region, economist and land policy expert Randal O’Toole of the Thoreau Institute said, “Anything that relieves congestion reduces pollution. So the argument that the highway connector will increase pollution is just a red herring.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

For more information …

“Build It,” Washington Post, December 21, 2006,

Shaver, K., “Federal Agency Sued Over Environmental Study,” Washington Post, December 21, 2006,