DALLAS -- Traffic and toll revenues are ramping up slowly but steadily on Maryland Transportation Authority’s $2.4 billion, 19-mile Intercounty Connector built to relieve congestion in the Washington area.
The all-electronic toll road, funded with $669 million of revenue bonds and $750 million of grant anticipation revenue vehicle bonds, is meeting expectations, the MDTA said in a report this week as the toll road approaches its second full year of operation. Revenues are less than anticipated when the road was first proposed, but transportation authority officials said the traffic volumes and collections are in line with later projections.
Highway consultants in 2003 projected more than 56,000 vehicles a day would use the road by 2012, generating $68 million a year in toll revenues. The latest traffic numbers show an average of 40,000 vehicles a day. The first 6 miles of the road opened in February 2011 with another 12 miles on Nov. 22, 2011.
More than 17.2 million trips were made in fiscal 2013 on the toll road, also known as MD 200, for a 2.4% monthly increase in volume for the first year.
Revenues from July 2012 through June 2013 totaled $39.6 million, or $30,000 more than expected in the latest projections.
Maryland Transportation Authority’s $2.3 billion of outstanding debt is rated Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service, AA-minus by Standard & Poor’s, and AA by Fitch Ratings.
The authority, whose debt is separate from the Maryland Department of Transportation, issued $325 million of GARVEE bonds in fiscal 2007 for the ICC project and another $425 million of GARVEEs in fiscal 2009.
Maryland Transportation Authority in March 2008 issued $176.3 million of revenue bonds, supported by tolls on the ICC and seven other toll roads and bridges operated by the authority. Another $278.9 million of revenue bonds were issued in December 2009 and a third tranche of $82.7 million of revenue bonds was issued in September 2010.
The authority will also contribute $137 million in cash to the ICC project.
The state will contribute a total of $264.9 million to the project from the general fund and general obligation bond proceeds. Maryland has provided $234.4 million of the total pledge with the remainder expected in fiscal 2014.
Other funding for the ICC project includes a $516 million authority-supported loan through the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, of which $384 million has been drawn, and $180 million from the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund.
Traffic on the 18 miles of the three completed segments of the road linking Interstate 370 with Interstate 95 averaged almost 40,000 vehicles a day in September, said Bruce Gartner, acting executive director of the transportation authority.
“Traffic is slightly lower than projected on the eastern end, and it is significantly higher than projected at the western end connecting to the I-270 business corridor,” he said. “We are finding that drivers are making longer trips on the ICC than originally estimated, with more trips being made in the longer western segments.”
The final 1-mile segment of the road is expected to be completed in June 2014.
James T. Smith Jr., Maryland’s transportation secretary and chairman of the transportation authority, said the toll road is still in the “ramping up” stage.
“The ICC was designed to accommodate expected traffic capacity in 2030 and to provide relatively congestion-free travel with reliable travel times today and for years to come,” Smith said.
Tolls for a passenger car traveling the entire length of the ICC ranges from $4 at peak traffic periods to $1.60 during the overnight hours. Commercial trucks pay $30 for transit during rush hour and $18 for off-peak hours. Vehicles without an electronic toll tag pay up to 50% more.