Toll hikes coming Tuesday: How will they affect you?
The first phase of the largest package of toll increases in Maryland's history will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday as the bill comes due for two mega-projects and the state transportation system's aging infrastructure.
The increases were approved by the board of The Maryland Transportation Authority in September after a series of public hearings led to some modifications in the original plan but only minor changes in its overall scope.
Getting There is interested in hearing from users of the states' various toll facilities about how the increases will affect them -- in their commuting, in personal travel or in doing business. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and include a phone number where you can be reached.
The increases will affect each of the state’s seven fully opened toll facilities with fixed basic rates. Only the Intercounty Connector, a partly opened toll road that uses a variable pricing scheme bases on traffic levels, is exempt. They are the first changes to the tolls paid by passenger vehicles since 2003, though truckers absorbed a round of increases in 2009.
At the three Baltimore Harbor crossings – the Harbor Tunnel, Fort McHenry Tunnel and the Key Bridge – drivers will pay a $3 cash rate each way instead of the $2 they've been kicking in since 2003.
On the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, as Interstate 95 northeast of Baltimore is known, the basic northbound toll will rise from $5 to $6. At the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge, which crosses the Susquehanna River on U.S. 40 as it parallels I-95, the same rate will apply.
On the Bay Bridge, where the $2.50 toll had been frozen in place since the 1970s, motorists’ luck will run out Tuesday. The rate will go up to $4 – collected eastbound only -- at least sparing drivers the ordeal of fumbling with change. In Southern Maryland, users of the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge will pay a like sum, instead of the previous $3, to make the southbound Potomac River crossing.
Truckers will absorb some of the largest hikes, but the board gave them a two-month reprieve. The higher truck tolls will not go into effect untill Jan. 1 so that trucking companies on year-to-year contracts have a chance to renegotiate rates with shippers to reflect the increases.
Tuesday’s increases will be followed by a second round in July 2013 that will push the cost of a round trip at the Harbor crossings, the Kennedy Highway and the Hatem to $8. The increases at the Bay and Nice Bridges will be held to $6 because the authority board decided an earlier plan to more than double the tolls at the two spans was too much too soon.
The increases are being driven largely by the need to repay bonds issued for two giant projects the state embarked on during the last decade -- the $2.6 billion ICC and the $1 billion Express Toll Lanes project on I-95. Also contributing to the need for revenue is the need to maintain the aging infrastructure of the toll facilities, which include two bridges that date to 1940 and a span of the Bay Bridge that is almost 60 years old.