The second section of the Inter-County Connector, long visible to drivers in Laurel, opened to traffic Tuesday, Nov. 22, allowing a connection from Interstate 370 in Gaithersburg to Interstate 95 in South Laurel.
"… The ICC will finally link the I-270 and I-95 corridors providing motorists with a viable option to the existing congested local road network in Maryland's Washington suburban region," MTA Chairman Swaim-Staley said in a statement prior to Tuesday's opening.
As with the first phase, which opened Feb. 22 between I-370 in Gaithersburg and Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, the Maryland Transit Authority will not charge any tolls to drivers who use the new highway for the first 13 days, allowing the "test-drivers" to help the state ensure that all toll equipment is functional.
A third and final leg of the $2.56 billion highway will connect I-95 to Route 1; construction should start next spring.
Starting Dec. 4, drivers will be charged a mileage toll based on the hour of the day: The peak rate will be 25 cents per mile, weekdays from 6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. Off-peak rate is 20 cents per mile, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7-11 p.m., and weekends from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Overnight rates will be 10 cents per mile, weekends from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and weekdays 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The ICC, or Route 200, has involved more than 40 years of discussion, plans and construction, and the long-debated and sometimes controversial project is still point of contention for some.
Prince George's County Council member Mary Lehman, who represents Laurel, said she still objects to the cost of the tolls and said she does not feel it was worth the expensive price-tag it carried.
"I was never a supporter," she said. "And I do not buy that it will alleviate congestion."