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March 31, 2010

ICC delay could avert mid-campaign encounter

When  Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. jumped into the race against Gov. Martin O'Malley this week, it raised the intriguing prospect that the election campaign could intersect with the opening of the first phase of the Intercounty  Connector -- a project associated much more with the former governor than the incumbent.

Wouldn't that  make for an interesting October ribbon-cutting?

Alas, such a ceremony is unlikely to happen before Election Day. Because  rainy conditions last year and three major snowstorms over the winter have caused construction delays, the State Highway Administration has revised its estimate of the likely opening date of the section of the ICC between Interstate 370 and Georgia Avenue (Route 97) in Montgomery County.

Where previously the had talked about opening the section this fall, now ICC project spokeswoman Fran Counihan says it expects the opening to occur before the end of the year.

Counihan would not rule out an October surprise if the weather is ideal for  construction during the spring and summer, but added that it is very unlikely. With normal weather, the likely opening would occur in late November or December, she said. Another rainy year like 2009  could push it into next year.

Whether the ceremony takes place before or after the election, it still raises interesting questions of who will be invited -- whichever  candidate wins. While the O'Malley administration has  overseen the project since 2007, the Republican Ehrlich truly is the Godfather of the ICC --  whether you love it or hate it. He's the one who moved mountains to win federal approval of the project before he was ousted by his Democratic rival in 2006.

But it's the incumbent governor -- whether still campaigning, triumphantly elected or wallowing in lame-duckery -- who controls the guest list.

In other circumstances, one could envision a coming-together of rivals in a ceremony marked by graciousness and  respect. But this is O"Malley vs. Ehrlich, and every sign is that the two detest each other. A smart bet would be a Trifecta of Mutual Recriminations, Petty Sniping and Yesterday's Whine.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:10 AM |
Categories: On the roads
About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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