The Baltimore Sun

Still time to stop expensive highway

With an intelligent push for light rail, bus rapid transit and carpooling under way, there are few good reasons remaining to build the polluting dinosaur of a project known as the Intercounty Connector ("Budget blues," editorial, Dec. 21).

The interest payments on the project alone will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, not just now but well into our future.

How can we build a road that costs $180 million a mile without funding simple, much less expensive alternatives that could eliminate the need for the ICC?

How can the state ask employees to take furloughs and human service agencies to endure state funding cuts while taking tens of millions from the general fund to build a road?

The ICC is a backward-looking, 20th-century project that won't reduce congestion or air pollution and will spur a new onslaught of sprawl along its entire route as it permanently destroys more than 1,000 acres of open space.

Sure, the road is under construction. But so was the nightmarish 1970s-era Interstate 70 bypass that was supposed to run through central Baltimore and would have bisected Leakin Park, Federal Hill, Fells Point and Highlandtown and, imagine this, involved a bridge across the Inner Harbor. Thankfully, we stopped that monstrosity when it was half-completed, and now it's time to do the same for the ICC.

If we are truly going to move into a greener, cleaner future, building roads isn't a part of that vision.

Greg Cantori, Pasadena

The writer is president of One Less Car.

Owners can contest rising assessments

When more than 700,000 Maryland residents receive their property reassessments next week, they might be surprised to see that these assessments reflect increases in the value of their land and homes ("Housing's slump won't trim taxes," Dec. 28).

Even though most of these properties probably shouldn't receive any increase at all, the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation is likely to raise many of their assessments. As co-founder of Property Taxpayers United, I've found that the department is skilled at pulling the wool over the eyes of the homeowner.

The reassessment process is designed to confuse a property owner, as is the appeal process.

But I strongly urge all homeowners who feel that their properties have been unfairly reassessed to appeal their assessments.

David Boyd, White Hall

Investing in colleges pays big dividends

Although a writer from the Cato Institute told Baltimore Sun readers that "giving academia more public bucks is not the path to economic success" ("Higher-ed spending not the answer," Commentary, Dec. 17), this claim belies the preponderance of economic research and Maryland's experience.

Studies repeatedly show that public research universities are engines for economic development and magnets for talent and jobs. A recent study by the Sage Policy Group estimated that the University of Maryland, College Park - the state's flagship university - returns roughly six dollars in economic benefits for every state dollar invested.

Public universities are especially vital to Maryland, a state heavily dependent on its knowledge-based economy. And as the federal government prepares to increase its investments in research, shouldn't Maryland stay as competitive as possible in technological fields?

The University of Maryland has deep research relationships with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, Department of Defense and Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. We are also intensely involved in pioneering climate change research and other high-level research in fields ranging from energy to nanotechnology, robotics, biotechnology, linguistics, computer science, language acquisition and national security.

Much of the nation's fundamental research begins at universities before the work moves to the private sector. For instance, UM biologists' discovered a bacterium that helps produce ethanol from non-food sources. Through UM's technology incubator, the scientists formed a company that now produces ethanol commercially.

Education and research secure our future.

Investing in higher education is wise, not a waste.

Nariman Farvardin, College Park

The writer is the provost at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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