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Hook up E-ZPasses: ICC no longer is free

The free ride is over.

Drivers cruising the Inter-County Connector will pay to use Maryland’s most expensive highway starting Monday.

The road — officially Route 200 — opened in full Nov. 22, providing motorists a high-speed connection between Interstates 95 and 270 that allows them to skip the slog along the oft-congested Capital Beltway.

The cost for most vehicles to travel the 18.8 miles from Gaithersburg to Laurel is now $4 during the morning and evening rush hours, $3.20 during the rest of the day and $1.60 overnight.

Tolls are collected automatically as vehicles zip under overhead E-ZPass sensors.

The Maryland Transportation Authority, the state’s tolling body, will photograph the license plates of vehicles without an E-ZPass and mail drivers a bill with a surcharge of 50 percent above the toll rate. For cars, the cost will run between $2.60 overnight and $6 during peak hours.

MdTA launched an online tool Friday available at www.mdta.maryland.gov that allows drivers to calculate tolls on the ICC and other bridges, tunnels and highways.

Traffic on both segments of the ICC rose steadily over the past two toll-free weeks.

The state recorded 48,467 vehicles traveling between I-270 and Georgia Avenue — this stretch opened in February — on Nov. 22 and 55,572 on Thursday. Traffic on the new segment climbed similarly, from 38,475 vehicles on its first day open to 44,635.

“Will it decrease come Monday? That’s likely to be the case, but then we expect the ramp-up,” said Cheryl Sparks, an MdTA spokeswoman.

Indeed, the state offered a similar toll holiday when the first segment opened. Traffic declined sharply when the toll sensors were switched on, but climbed steadily after that.

Many commuters have offered positive reviews of the new highway.

Instead of zig-zagging through back roads or taking a gamble on Washington beltway traffic, Kathleen T. Snyder, president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, said she’ll certainly fork over the $4 to use the ICC on trips from her office in Annapolis to western Montgomery County.

“The toll is expensive, but time is money. It certainly is in business. It certainly will be for people who have to pick up a child at child care, go to a soccer game or whatever they have to do,” Snyder said. “While it’s an expensive project, it will really help move people and goods from the 270 corridor to the I-95, BWI area.”

Her only gripe? The speed limit should be raised from 55 miles per hour.

The ICC’s $2.56 billion price tag is the most the state has ever paid to build a highway. Along with the $1 billion effort to add toll lanes to I-95 in Baltimore, financing the ICC forced the MdTA to enact a two-step, statewide toll increase in October.