Toll increase timetable comes into focus
The Maryland Transportation Authority's target date for its expected round of toll increase to take effect is October, officials at the agency said yesterday.
The timetable for the increases came into clearer focus this morning at a meeting of the toll authority's board, where members conducted a general, consensus-seeking discussion of the parameters of the increases, which are expected to raise a minimum of $70 million in annual revenue.
According to the plan, the board would make a decision on specific proposals in May, then taken them to a round of about seven public hearings in June and July. The board is hoping to implement the increases in October.
This year it appears the board will have a lot on the table besides simple adjustments to basic fares. The discussion indicated that the board will consider a variety of innovations, including tolls at existing facilities that vary between peak and off-peak travel times. There is also a strong inclination on the board to move away from giving change in coins. Members are also planning to look at further incentives to encourage drivers to use E-Z Pass.
It also appears that some of the sacred cows of past rounds of increases might not be as holy as they used to be. Board members are not taking increases in commuter rates or Bay Bridge tolls off the table. Both have been essentially frozen for decades.
"I think they want to look at all the options. Nothing's off the table," said Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley, who chairs the board. "We are not going to have the luxury of not looking at all facilities."