Thursday, October 04, 2007

Turtle Power: Can it stop the ICC?

According to this article in the Washington Post this morning construction on the Intercounty Connector (ICC) was supposed to begin on October 16th. As most people who care probably already know, the project has been delayed by multiple concerns including (I think) most notably concerns on the effects of the new four lane toll road on the environment. I say I think mostly because other then seeing a few things in the news and on blogs here and there it’s never really caught my attention too much before moving out to Greenbelt for somewhat obvious reasons. As a DC resident and car free individual it really didn’t affect me at all and I really didn’t care one way or the other.

Image may be found here.

Obviously my situation has changed pretty drastically over the past couple of months. I’m now in a decent position to benefit from this ICC deal; Greenbelt is just South of Laurel and a connection out to 270 would be pretty easy. That said, I doubt I’d ever really use it much; for one there would be a toll and with 495 right down the road I may as well save my $2 and use 495 like I always do. But when I thought about it aside from my general feelings that more roads accomplish nothing but more traffic I didn’t really take an opinion on the matter, even after I saw an article in the Greenbelt Co-Op newspaper that stated the community’s lack of support for the road.

Yesterday morning reading a bit of a random article in the Washington Post, I finally took an opinion on the project and the reason for my swing vote selection was a bit surprising. The intro included in the email from the article included in my daily email pulled me in when it mentioned short tails wagging and when I clicked over and read on a bit I was somewhat surprised reading on about the turtle activists. Passionate turtle lovers are not something I typically think about when I think about activists and most certainly not when I think about proposed highways.

But, here it was, an article in the Washington Post talking about turtles, turtle activists and the ICC. Reading on the article explains that the path the ICC is proposed to cut through is a solid habitat for turtles and that when the construction would likely be taking place the turtles would be in hibernation underneath the leaves and brush. If nothing was done the would be crushed by the heavy trucks and equipment or buried alive. Yes, they are “just” turtles but at what point do we become so much more important then the rest of the planet’s ecology that we can do something like this? I realize that this delves further into our society as a whole then this and further then I am going to go here but sometimes we should really be sitting back and thinking about the effects of these actions of ours have on our surroundings.

Image may be found here.

The article highlights what the state is doing to protect these turtles; finding and tagging them with locating devices so they can find them again later if the project goes through and move them to safety. While I am glad they are taking these things into consideration and making the effort, this has also swayed my opinion against the ICC. It would be very likely that the turtles would not survive in the area since during their lives they don’t travel more then a few miles within a given area and moving them away would take them further from their initial habitats then they’d ever be on their own. It also shows just how much of an impact this road really would have on the environment by shedding light on an issue that I never would have even imagined.

As my thoughts and opinions about our interactions with our environment have developed over the past few years one thing that I’ve come to believe is important is that we limit our impact where we can. Building the ICC could pose a near devastating impact on the environment and would only promote further damage to the environment by encouraging people to drive instead of finding other modes of transportation, drive further distances and in the end produce only more traffic causing even greater damage to our surroundings.

I personally don’t view myself or my commute as important enough to justify that much more damage to the same environment my children and grandchildren will have to grow up in.


SAS said...

Turtle is right - if the ICC is not built, you will only continue to be able to get across MoCo as fast as a turtle. And you are likely to get squashed too - the safety of people is greatly reduced without this road. The majority of residents DO want this road - they're too busy trying to work and being stuck in traffic to be able to enjoy all the things you like to do. I'm one of them - I used to volunteer on a regular basis but I was late so many times due to unpredictable traffic I had to resign as it was not fair to the organization. And it is really not fair for the people who have families who lose all that time stuck in traffic with them. The turtles can be relocated successfully. The road cannot. The success of the region rides on projects such as this one - and despite your misgivings, will not negatively impact this species (but might the invasive trout - think in 40 years we'll have the same feelings for the snakehead in the Potomac?).

I admire you for being able to ride your bike to work. I wish I could but there is no way to cross the Potomac on bike unless you live in the District (Chain Bridge is exceedingly difficult to get to from Virginia side and no way to cross American Legion). As you know as a contractor, you do not know where you might have to go for your next assignment. Good luck to you.

KMAX said...

I completely agree that is is sad that people lose so much time due to the ridiculous amount of traffic in the area, but building bigger and faster roadways is not the only option, and it is certainly not safer. Any additional roadways will just lead to more traffic and more people. If we add this new route more people will view that commute as viable so they'll move accordingly putting more cars on the road until it is no better then what is currently there. At some point we have to sit back and realize that more highways will only do so much before alternative steps are made.

I'm sorry you have to deal with the horrible traffic but I still stand against the ICC. If it gets bad enough people should either move or change jobs to something more reasonable.