Ready to pay higher tolls to ease Montgomery jams?
Are you ready to pay higher tolls at Maryland toll facilities to widen a highway whose benefits you'll never use and which puts Baltimore at a competitive disadvantage?
It's not out of the question. Ben Ross of the Action Committee for Transit raised that possibility while we were chatting the other day about the proposed $4.6 billion project to widen Interstate 270 by adding two express toll lanes in each direction.
Ross is not exactly unbiased. He doesn't like the proposed project - which has been backed by the Montgomery County Planning Board and some County Council members there - on environmental grounds. But the concern he raises is valid enough that it should prompt elected officials from other parts of the state to ask pointed questions.
Adding toll lanes to I-270 would almost certainly put it within the purview of the Maryland Transportation Authority - thus making the project eligible to be funded in part with bonds backed by revenue from other state toll facilities. But for now, it's taking all the tolls the state can collect to keep up with existing obligations. Any plan for I-270 that includes financing from the authority would likely involve toll increases.
The last major nontruck toll increase came during the Ehrlich administration in 2003. Money from bonds based on those tolls provide the single biggest source of money to pay for the Inter-County Connector and the express toll lane project on Interstate 95. The harbor crossing tolls went from $1 to $2. The Kennedy Highway and Hatem Bridge went from $4 to $5. The Bay and Nice bridges were exempted.
For the full coumn, go to http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/commuting/bal-md.dresser10aug10,0,122207.story