Future toll rate increases projected
The Department of Legislative Services projects that the Maryland Transportation Authority will need toll increases in 2011 and 2013 to meet its obligations -- whether customers like it or not.
Legislators and citizens can holler all they want, but the bondholders are in the driver's seat. And the numbers do really add up to a much-needed increase. That''s not new. Both the authority and the analysts have been saying for some time that the piper will have to be paid in 2011 and again in 2013 -- no matter who wins this year's gubernatorial election.
But in their annual report to lawmakers this year, legislative analysts outlined how the system’s need for revenue could affect individual facilities’ tolls for two-axle vehicles.
The following chart does not represent authority policy: That agency, which would have to decide how the need for revenue translates into actual tolls, has not weighed in. But the analysts are pretty good at what they do, so the following chart of past and projected future toll rates is probably not too far from what will be reality in a few years.
Facility 2001 2003 2011 2013
Baltimore Harbor crossings * $1.00 $2.00 $3.00 $4.00
Nice (U.S. 301) Bridge $3.00 $3.00 $5.00 $5.00
Bay Bridge (U.S.50/301) $2.50 $2.50 $4.00 $5.00
I-95, Hatem (U.S. 40) Bridge $4.00 $5.00 $6.00 $6.00
*Key Bridge, Fort McHenry Tunnel, Harbor Tunnel
SOURCE: Department of Legislative Services
If these toll increases look ugly, consider the alternatives. One is that the authority seriously skimps on maintenance, likely leading to greater costs, safety hazards and traffic disruptions in the future. Or, if politics intervene, the bond rating agencies could decide Maryland's toll-backed bonds aren't such a great risk any more. That would mean the authority would have to pay higher interest rates for its borrowing.
Look at it this way: You always have the opportunity to take an alternate free route. You might not like it, but it exists. If you're starting in Annapolis, the Bay Bridge crossing is certainly a bargain at $5 compared wiith the alternate routes to the Eastern Shore. It's been $2.50 since thhe 1970s, but what the heck. Nothing lasts forever.