On Google, the ICC is open all the way to I-370
On Google World, the 41.9-mile trip from Baltimore to Gaithersburg takes all of 48 minutes along the brand new Intercounty Connector. Just take Interstate 95 south, hop on the ICC and you’re virtually there.
On Planet Earth, most of the ICC hasn’t opened yet. The 12 miles between I-95 and the Montgomery County high-tech hotbed is largely a muddy track where bulldozers are still doing what bulldozers do.
In a textbook illustration of the computer adage “garbage in, garbage out,” Google and another popular Web-based mapping service have jumped the gun on the opening of the longest segment of Maryland’s new toll road by about a year.
“Beware: Everything you read on the Internet may not be true,” Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA-Mid-Atlantic, chortled when told about the error.
A 7-mile stretch of the $2.6 billion ICC, between Georgia Avenue and Interstate 370, opened late last month. But the segment between Georgia Avenue and I-95 is under construction and expected to open late this year or early in 2012.
“Clearly Google understands that many of our people who drive our roads also have all-terrain vehicles,” Anderson said. “Google’s just a little ahead of all of us.”
As funny as the mistake may be to a detached observer, it could be less than amusing to a motorist who was unfamiliar with the region and depending on the directions. A traveler from Baltimore to Montgomery County, for instance, could drive down I-95 expecting to get off on the ICC, only to get lost upon finding find no exit.
Doug Beizer, a communications manager for an engineering society, stumbled across the misleading directions Thursday when he was plotting a route between his office in Landover and Montgomery General Hospital in Olney.
Google Maps assured him that Route 200, as the ICC is also known, was the way to go. Beizer, who is married to a Sun reporter, knew that wasn’t so.
“I saw this map and it drew this line west on a road that doesn’t exist yet,” said Beizer, whose work travels have made him familiar with the I-95 corridor. “I knew it was one of those glitches.”
Beizer tipped off the newspaper. Another Sun reporter was able to reproduce that error and also determined that Google – as well as Yahoo! – were directing motorists onto the ICC on a trip from Baltimore to Gaithersburg and other theoretical journeys across the state.
Mapquest, a rival, provided directions more applicable to 2011. It guided drivers to the tedious but existent 58-minute slog along the Capital Beltway and up Interstate 270 that the ICC is intended to render obsolete.
Cheryl Sparks, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority, said the agency had received an email about the problem and was trying to track down the sender. She said the agency would work with geographic data providers to fix the problem.
“If you took a ride down there today, you’d see a very active construction zone,” she said.
Messages left for Google and Yahoo! have not yet been returned.