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MdTA Approves Broad Toll Increases

After holding 10 public hearings this summer on a proposal calling for steep toll increases across the state, the Maryland Transportation Authority Board approved a slightly revised plan Thursday morning.

The Maryland Transportation Authority Board approved a revised toll plan Thursday morning, which it projects will raise $90 million in its first full year, paying down significant debt for previous bonds issued to repair the state's aging bridges, tunnels and highways.

The MDTA Board held 10 hearings around the state after announcing its plans to significantly raise tolls at its facilities. The hearings generated a lot of debate and public outcry.

In Harford and Cecil counties, may have helped to stem toll increases at the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge, MDTA Board members said, but overall the initial June proposal largely passed as planned.

"The debt service is the driver," said MDTA chairwoman and Transportation Secretary Beverly K. Swaim-Staley. "We issued bonds in excess of $2 billon to pay for new facilities on I-95, the ICC, and ongoing system preservation, including repairs to the Bay Bridge. The bills are coming due."

Toll increases for passenger cars, light trucks and motorcycles, for example, will increase starting Jan. 1, 2012, from $2 to $3 at the Fort McHenry and Baltimore Harbor tunnels and the Francis Scott Key Bridge; from $5 to $6 at the Kennedy Highway and the Hatem Bridge; and from $2.50 to $4 at the Bay Bridge, according to a MDTA press release.

A modified E-Z Pass plan for the Hatem Bridge keeps the cost for unlimited annual trips the same, at $10, until July 1, 2013.

Further toll increases across the state will begin to go into effect in July of 2013. At the Fort McHenry and Baltimore Harbor tunnels, and the Francis Scott Key Bridge, for example, rates will eventually move to $4 for passenger cars, light trucks and motorcycles. Similiarly, tolls will increase at the Kennedy Highway and the Hatem Bridge to $8 per trip, beginning in July of 2013. 

The cost for a 2-axle vehicle crossing the Bay Bridge will increase from $2.50 to $4, and then go to $6 in July of 2013.

"One commuter daily, commuting 50 weeks a year, on average will see a $500 a year cost increase," , who represents the Dundalk and Essex area. "For a family with two commuters, people will pay $1,000 more. That's crushing for a lot of people. There's many people in my district living paycheck to paycheck.

"To put it in perspective," Olszewski said, "when the sales tax when up one percent, that cost less than $200 for the average person. This is a big hit."

Although toll increases were modified for 3 and 4-axle trucks after the summer hearings, truckers will face steep increases as well, leading some to suggest the measure will hurt job growth in the state.

For example, a 6-axle vehicle, which currently pays a $15 toll at the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, Fort McHenry Tunnel and Francis Scott Key Bridge, will pay a $30 toll by July of 2013.

"Shame on the governor and shame on this board," said Maryland State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who represents parts of Cecil, Caroline, Kent and Queen Anne's counties. "All this governor and the secretary and this board did was manage to kill jobs."

Swaim-Staley acknowledged the board had concerns about the effect on the trucking industry, as well as on commuters, especially given the state of the economy.

"We had no choice but to raise tolls," she said. "Commitments were made and bills needed to be paid."

Click through the photo to find the entire MDTA press release accompanying the board meeting.

Rob September 24, 2011 at 10:18 PM
First of all Robert did you actually read the story to which you linked? I did and I didn't see anything that said it will or site any sources or information to backup it's claim. The headline of the story is "Federal budget cuts COULD bleed Florida economy." it doesn't say "Federal budget cuts WILL bleed Florida economy." If you would have checked further you would find that Florida is legally bound to pass a balanced budget meaning that if they can't pay for it they can't do it. So every year Florida pass a balanced budget which means it never has a deficit. If only Maryland could figure this out but hey when you're taking in Billions in handouts from DC why worry? http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/deficit-to-surplus-understanding-floridas-budgeting-process/1187229
Rob September 24, 2011 at 10:22 PM
Then there's this Robert; Of course you wasn't spouting off something you heard on NPR or read in the NY Times or LA Times. I'm sure it wasn't something you saw on CNN but your claims about Texas are factually wrong. But what are facts? Facts are just something that get in the way of a an otherwise good story. http://www.politicalmathblog.com/?p=1590
Rob September 24, 2011 at 11:12 PM
Let's not forget this embezzlement scheme from the king liberal himself. http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/solyndra-collapse-waste-half-billion-obama-gop-critics/story?id=14424323
Tim September 25, 2011 at 01:37 AM
Rob: King of Embezzlement? That'd be the previous presidency. Two COMPLETELY unfunded (and pointless) wars. Haliburton ring a bell? Solyndra doesn't hold a flickering candle to the corruption and myopia of the previous leadership. I don't support either, but let's look at reality here. Both parties are corrupt. Tea Party are simply corrupt and socially delusional.
Tom Barnes February 08, 2012 at 03:50 PM
To the best of my knowledge, our state constitution doesn't allow for taxation without representation. How does the MDTA respresent us? They do not. How did they get this power? And how come no one in the Assembly is actively working to strip them of their taxing powers? A toll IS a tax.

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