The Washington, D.C. metro region is known for some of the worst traffic congestion in the U.S., but the new Intercounty Connector (ICC) is giving many motorists some much-needed relief.
Also known as Maryland State Route 200, ICC is an 18-mile east-west toll highway that stretches between Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg and U.S. Route 1 in Laurel. It is Maryland’s first roadway featuring all-electronic toll collection.
The $2.4 billion project, which started in April 2005, reached completion in April 2015. The first sections of the roadway opened to traffic in early 2011.
“The D.C. metro region is ranked among the most congested areas in the country,” said Jerry Jannetti, who served as WSP USA’s project manager during the preliminary engineering and procurement stage. “This roadway provides some alternative routes to alleviate congestion on local roads.”
As the general engineering consultant in a joint venture on behalf of the Maryland State Highway Administration, WSP played a key role from planning through preliminary engineering, development of design-build procurement documents, final design and construction oversight.
Environmental preservation was top priority for the client. From the early design stage, WSP played a role in delivering 63 environmental stewardship projects that addressed environmental stresses created by past development in the area, and also minimized the impact of the ICC.
The projects included a stream restoration project and the creation of significant wooded areas within the watershed areas. “We weren’t just planting trees. We were planting forests,” Jannetti said.
Maintaining communication with the people impacted by the ICC ensured that community concerns were always at the forefront, and addressed in a timely manner. “Our public involvement was extremely aggressive, and we made sure to tell the community early and often about any events that might affect them,” Jannetti said. “We prepared them for what they would be seeing, carefully explained why it was important, and we let them know when we expected to be finished with a particular aspect of the project.”
The results of that interaction were numerous initiatives designed to enhance the quality of life for local residents, including a dog park and soccer fields.
“This project would not have been possible if the client had not made such a huge commitment to improving the environment and the community,” he said.
According to Jannetti it was the high level of teamwork among everyone involved with the project that ensured its success.
“Our approach was that we didn’t do a job as separate project teams,” he said. “We even had a rule that you didn’t wear a company shirt on-site; only ICC clothing.”
Jannetti said that kind of teamwork over a 10-year period was critical and helped maintain a steady approach whenever things didn’t go according to plan.
“The prevailing attitude was always, ‘Let’s not worry about whose fault it is; let’s work together to resolve the problem quickly and correctly.’ That enabled us to resolve issues in a timely manner, and at a lower cost,” he said.
A “project charter” was created and signed by all of the partners that reminded them of their key goals with the project, which included:
“We found things in common to celebrate, rather than focusing on things that made us separate,” Jannetti added. “It was understood that if we didn’t do this together, then all of us would fail.”
Thus far, the ICC has been meeting or exceeding all expectations. In particular, Jannetti said toll revenue has been higher than originally anticipated.
“The Intercounty Connector is certainly meeting the original intent of this project, to provide another travel option for motorists,” he said. “It has made east-west travel in that area far easier.”
He added that ICC, which provides another travel route to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), has had an economic impact on flight travel as well.
“For the first time ever, BWI has surpassed Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in annual volume,” Jannetti said. He speculated that the Intercounty Connector played a part in allowing the airport to grow by making it easier to travel to the BWI.
“I can’t tell you how many people have commented to me how much easier it is to get to Baltimore or BWI airport,” he added. “When I reflect on my career, I will always be proud to say I was associated with the Intercounty Connector, and the smart people that made it successful.”