No One Is Driving On This 18.8 Mile Washington DC Highway That Was Supposed To Ease The Worst Congestion In The Nation

Bethesda Magazine’s Eugene Meyer
has a scary storyabout how Washington, D.C. can’t even solve it’s biggest, most obvious problem: traffic.

Congestion in and around the nation’s capital is literally the worst in the nation, with drivers wasting an average of 67 hours and 32 gallons of gas sitting in traffic every year.

The problem hasn’t gone unnoticed, and for years, at least on the Maryland side of the Beltway (the ring of highway surrounding the city), there’d been talk of building a road that would ease travel between DC’s suburbs.

Finally, in 2007, construction began on an 18.8-mile stretch of highway called the Intercounty Connector.

In 2011 the first leg was finally completed.

And no one is driving on it.

“Traffic counts are well below early projections, and revenue from tolls — needed to pay off the bonds that were sold to build the road — is far less than originally anticipated,” Meyer writes.

The reason: It costs drivers $8 round-trip in tolls to save 20-odd minutes on their rush hour commute; for the largest trucks, it’s $US60.

And initially, you couldn’t even drive more than 55 miles per hour on it.

Now you can go 60, but Meyer says state troopers “aggressively” issue speeding tickets.

As former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, “who killed the highway only to see his successor resurrect it,” told Meyer, “I don’t see a lot of reason to go out of my way to pay a toll to save 18 minutes.”

Another Bethesda motorist told Meyer he only takes it because his employer pays for the tolls.

And some drivers straight up aren’t paying anything: One-third of drivers who pass through the road’s electronic toll arches without a transponder never pay their bill — 4x the state average, the Washington Post has reported.

The project has also blown a hole in state coffers. Including interest payments, the project is now $US3 billion over its initial $US1 billion budget.

As a result, tolls on all of Maryland’s other roads have been raised, and the state had to raise its gas tax.

“The ICC is the Pac-Man of roads, critics charge, eating up all the transportation dollars in sight, now and for years to come,” Meyer says.

The former Montgomery County executive credited with getting the project off the ground makes a decent point in its defence: “It’s never bumper to bumper, but it was never meant to be.”

And the DC-area zip codes are among the most affluent in the nation.

But it’s hard to see how any driver, no matter how wealthy, would want to pay $US8 every day just to get home at a more reasonable hour.

(Via the Urbanophile.)

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.