Little official recognition for the innovations in MD/ICC - Pat Jones (COMMENT)

February 27, 2011
By Peter Samuel

Pat Jones CEO at IBTTA makes a great point in a letter published this weekend in the Washington Post (below) about an an odd omission by the politicians speaking at the opening ceremonies at the Inter County Connector in the near northern suburbs of Washington DC last week. Neither the US secretary of transportation, nor the Maryland Governor, nor local elected representatives - no one at a microphone - mentioned its path-breaking new technology.

They were full of congratulations to one another for getting the road built, making careful allusions to the several decade long knockdown dragout political brawling that preceded the start on work. They also saluted the efforts of a jolly bunch of hardhatted, yellow & orange safety suited, and heavy booted construction workers up on the stage too - carefully segregated however from the political 'dignitaries.'

And US Sec LaHood made some eloquent points about the value of the new road in connecting communities. Another drew attention to the improved safety of the free flow expressway as compared to the surface signalized roads it replaces - an approx 75% reduction in accident deaths and serious injuries.

They gave good recognition of the value of the new road as a road.

But there was not a breath about the fact of the ICC being the first all-electronic toll road north of Miami and Dallas, east of Denver or south of Toronto. Here is the future of tolling and road finance, they are giving birth to, and the fact doesn't penetrate the skulls of these bigwigs, or - more to the point - of their speechwriters.

In front of hurricane-proof gantry setup

It was hardly a secret. The stage for the ceremonies was set behind the triple gantry AET structure designed of foot-plus diameter steel tubing plus connecting trusses - sufficiently massive to allow tolls to continue to be collected with 99.998% good transponder reads at the height of a Category 5 hurricane.

In fact there was hardly a reference in the speechmaking to the road as a toll road with its largest source of funding being toll revenue bonds. That was left to protesters with their play on the road "taking a toll" on the state (see pic)

Of course funding to early 21st century politicians - at least those of the left - is like sex was to the Victorians, not a fit or proper subject for public discussion. US Sec LaHood just released a so-called "budget" for the US Department of Transportation full of gory details of programs to be funded and not a risque word, or even allusion as to where the funds would be generated.

No wonder governors Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker and Andrew Cuomo who eschew the prudishness of the left on matters financial are soaring in public esteem. But we digress...

Here is Pat Jones excellent letter:


The ICC's beneficial technologies

Washington post Saturday, February 26, 2011; 6:54 PM

The politicians on hand for the ribbon-cutting to open Maryland's new Intercounty Connector [Metro, Feb. 22] took great pains to pay homage to the people who made this new roadway possible.
I wish that they had also paid homage to two of the most important and innovative features of this new road.

First, it is an all-electronic toll road. This means motorists will not need to slow down or stop to pay their tolls. Motorists will pay tolls electronically as they pass beneath overhead gantries that read E-ZPass tags mounted on their windshields (with video tolling for some motorists). It also means that the ICC will have a continuing revenue stream to support operations, maintenance and future improvements.

Second, the toll road is dynamically priced. This means the level of tolls can be increased based on the time of day (and, ultimately, based on the amount of traffic) to ensure free-flow conditions at all times.

Tolling and dynamic pricing address two of the biggest transportation challenges we face in this country: a chronic lack of funding and increasing congestion. We should praise the courage and foresight of those who insisted on including these two critical features in the ICC.

Patrick D. Jones, Washington

The writer is executive director and chief executive of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. end extract from Washington Post

One nit to pick with Pat

The ICC as it is set up to operate when tolling commences in a  few days is not 'dynamic tolling.' It is time-zone differentiated tolling or peak/off-peak period tolling.

The ICC will have three different toll rates - highest for peak hours, lowest in the wee night hours and with a middle toll rate for daytime off-peak travel. True dynamic tolling, at least as we see the term, varies the toll rate according to the traffic, not the time of day.

Now the ICC is set up with a toll system and technologies that would allow a relatively smooth transition to dynamic pricing, but they've chosen not to implement it for now - editor.

And another interesting comment on the ICC:

Posted at 7:50 PM ET, 02/25/2011
In the fast lane on the ICC

by Fay Jacobs, Rehoboth Beach

What timing! I just happened to be back in Montgomery County from my retirement paradise at the beach on the opening day for Route 200, the fabled intercounty connector.

It was in the last century, almost half my lifetime ago, that I first heard of the planned ICC and started working to prevent it from being built.   

From 1981 to 1999, as communications director for a large planned community, I spent 17 years, among other duties, lobbying, arguing, writing and testifying against the building of the controversial east-west span.

One proposed trajectory would "cut our community in half!" Another would "dump traffic onto our main road!" And there was the eternal cry: "It will destroy the wetlands!"

The irony was that during those 17 years I lived in Laurel, the ICC would practically have connected the dots from my front door to my Gaithersburg office, eliminating more than half of my twice-daily, hour-plus, life-sucking commute.

I yearned for the ICC shortcut even as a part of me enjoyed the ride past horse farms, silos, scenic, winding roads, wildlife-populated streams and roads charmingly named Muncaster and Mink Hollow.

A dozen years ago, I moved to the beach to work in tourism. Now retired, I'm a Social-Security drawing, commute-free senior, driving an SUV.

Imagine my surprise to find myself in Gaithersburg on Wednesday, the very morning the first cars would burn rubber on a completed portion of the ICC.

So at 9am, I turned left off Shady Grove Road onto the newly opened Route 200 ramp and accelerated onto the wide, sparsely trafficked intercounty connector. I sped from Derwood to Redland to Olney and Route 97 in a flash. I pictured those old, weathered "Right-of-way-for-future ICC" signs having finally come down, replaced by heavy equipment and road construction. I marveled at the high noise barriers trying to shield neighborhoods whose residents had demonized the project for years.

Frankly, I'm still conflicted about the ICC, but my morning ride certainly brought me full circle with my former ICC-bashing career and ICC-needing commute.

The new road came too late to convenience me. But I hope the displaced squirrels and frogs, as well as the noise-inundated neighbors, are okay. I think the final route spared my former workplace most of its worries, and I imagine the road will achieve the goals envisioned for it by the Maryland Department of Transportation.

For me, all of it was a great ride. Zero to 60 in 30 years.

By Fay Jacobs, Rehoboth Beach  | February 25, 2011; 7:50 PM ET

CORRECTION NEEDED: a Washington Post caption writer manages to mistake a camera illuminator or light for an E-ZPass transponder reader. The readers - or more precisely the reader antennas - are the pizza boxed shaped pieces on a separate gantry from the cameras. They have an illuminator or light set next to each camera to help get a good license plate picture in low light conditions.

TOLLROADSnews 2011-02-27

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