Sen. Pipkin denounces E-ZPass charges
Every once and a while the Getting There blog will host opposing views -- just for the fun of it. No views could be more opposed than Sen. E. J. Pipkin, a Republican who represents the Upper Eastern Shore. He copied me on a letter to the editor he's been circulating in response to the July 1 effective date of a new $1.50-a-month fee on E-ZPass accounts, as well as other revenue-raiising measures to make up a $60 million revenue shortfall at the Maryland Transportation Authority.
The good senator can have the rest of this blog post to himself. Those who want to read a response will have to wait for a few days while I sharpen my pen.
FATTENING THE CASH COW – MAKING BAY BRIDGE E-Z PASS USERS PAY MORE
In January, when the MdTA announced that it would impose higher fees and new costs on Bay Bridge commuters who use E-ZPass customers, I voiced my objections. Starved as the State is for revenue, I did not really expect the State to retreat from grabbing $60 million from Marylanders. In this instance, it would be Marylanders who use the Bay Bridge and other state toll facilities.
The Bay Bridge has always been a cash cow for the MdTA’s highway projects. The Bridge raises over $30 million in toll revenue each year and costs less than $8 to operate.
On July 1, the new fees and costs became effective. E-ZPass users will now have to pay for transponders, more for toll violations and a new charge of $1.50 a month to cover some of the costs of processing the program. According to then-Secretary of Transportation, John Porcari, the new charges would help recover costs and maintenance of the state’s toll facilities. Pocari said that he was taking this action “reluctantly” and called it a “last resort.”
As I see it, the State of Maryland has never shied away from bleeding its citizens with new and inventive taxes and fees. That it does so, in this faltering economy, is unconscionable.
Maryland, like all other states, has been pushing people to use electronic toll collections, which expedite the flow of traffic. Making the cost of using electronic toll collections higher and adding fees makes no sense. It is counter-productive. Those higher costs and that additional monthly $1.50 fee could push people and commercial users away from electronic toll collections. Let’s face it, toll facility users could very well decide to not to use E-ZPass.
It is the worst type of folly for government to grab the money and run without giving significant weight to negative unintended consequences. In its eagerness to grab the $60 million, the State could be stymieing or sabotaging Maryland’s transportation progress. The purpose of E-ZPass is to alleviate traffic congestion. Bay Bridge traffic increases between 2% and 3% each year. If the higher cost of using
E-ZPass reduces the number of users, Maryland will have taken an unfortunate step backward from transportation progress.