A Montgomery County Council member is calling on the state to lower tolls on the year-old Intercounty Connector.
Councilman Phil Andrews asked the Maryland Transportation Authority to reduce tolls on the highway by half, saying it's so expensive to drive on the $2.4 billion road that many drivers have avoided it.
"It feels like an airport runway more than a major highway," Andrews said. "The reason it's failing is tolls are so high. People avoid it."
Most drivers pay $8 for a rush-hour trip down the 18-mile road. Truck drivers pay as much as $30.
Andrews, a longtime opponent of the highway, which he said would hurt the environment, said the high tolls prevent the ICC from fulfilling its mission as an alternative route that could help alleviate traffic on other, congested highways.
State officials said they have no plans to reduce the tolls, saying the ICC is handling as much traffic as they expected.
"The ICC overall is meeting both traffic and revenue projections. The toll highway was designed for anticipated traffic volumes in 2030," said MdTA spokeswoman Kelly Melhem. "ICC toll rates are consistent with or lower than other variably priced toll facilities around the country."
The state approved a range of toll rates in 2009, and the highway is using the lowest rates approved, Melhem said.
About 26,000 drivers per day drove on the eastern end of the ICC in September, the MdTA's data show, and about 35,000 used the western end.
But Andrews says even if the road is meeting state projections, it's not relieving traffic in other areas as it was designed to do.
"The projections are completely unrealistic in terms of what should be considered successful," Andrews said. "The purpose of the ICC was to relieve traffic on other roads. And if it's only drawing enough cars to fill up a far smaller road, then it's not having that impact."