Volume 13, Issue 28 ~ July 14 - 20, - 2005

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On Busy Roads, A Bad Connection

Most of us in Chesapeake Country have one more thing to be thankful for: We don’t have to take a daily plunge into the portion of our region where a so-called Intercounty Connector will be built.

But it behooves all of us to pay attention to what is happening in our region — and to it.

That’s why we are troubled by Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s choice of a route that is the most environmentally destructive of those options on the table.

Kids have grown up and gotten married and started families since the debate over this multi-billion-dollar road system began 30 years ago.

We agree that such an artery is needed to ease transportation in the populous area north of Washington between I-95 and I-270. But the governor’s choice is questionable.

One of the most appealing features of our region is our resources. From mountainous Virginia to leafy Washington to Chesapeake Bay and on to Maryland’s ocean shores, our region is rich in natural wonders.

Even in heavily peopled areas like Montgomery County, Maryland has special offerings. Which brings us back to the Intercounty Connector.

Along the path chosen by Ehrlich lies an uncommon resource called Paint Branch Stream. In it, unlike anywhere nearby, brown trout live and reproduce. The Environmental Protection Agency called it “an unsurpassed natural resource in the region.”

There is little mystery about what earthmoving equipment, siltation, bridges and heavy traffic do to fragile ecosystems. Former Gov. Parris Glendening understood the stakes, calling the Paint Branch route “an environmental disaster.”

Ehrlich’s choice to have the Intercounty Connector squeeze Paint Branch will trigger a high-decibel debate over what happens next. Given the congestion to the west of us and the forces aligned here, we are under no illusion that a pretty stream and its fish will stand in the way of progress.

But as you read and hear news about this road, we think you ought to understand what’s at stake.

As we read of Ehrlich’s decision, we couldn’t help thinking about something else.

In this new century, from the White House to statehouses, we’ve seen a just-do-it mentality. Whether it be war, drilling or development, the attitude has been to move forward no matter the costs.

As often as not, we seem to be ending up in places where we’d rather not be — realizing too late that the best decision was the one not made.

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