- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2011

Most motorists will have to pay 60 percent more to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge starting Tuesday, when Maryland officials implement toll increases on most of the state’s pay roads.

The Maryland Transportation Authority says the toll increases at seven of its eight toll facilities will generate millions for maintenance of aging infrastructure.

The agency approved the increases Sept. 22 despite complaints from many drivers that the new tolls — which will more than double some tolls by 2013 — are too steep.

“Toll increases are needed, but I am pleased that we were able to make some adjustments to the plan, while securing the revenue needed to meet our fiscal and legal obligations,” state Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley said after the increases were passed. “These are tough decisions, but I can assure you that we listened.”

The increases Tuesday will be followed by a second round in July 2013.

Standard cash rates for cars and light trucks on the Bay Bridge will go from $2.50 to $4 for a round trip, and increase to $6 in 2013.

E-ZPass rates will go from $2.50 to $3.60 on Tuesday and to $5.40 in 2013.

The bridge’s $1 commuter rate will go unchanged until 2013, when it will increase to $2.10.

The standard and E-ZPass rates at the Baltimore area’s Francis Scott Key Bridge and Baltimore Harbor and Fort McHenry tunnels, formerly $2, will also go up Tuesday.

Most drivers will pay $3, and those with E-ZPass will pay $2.70. Commuter rates also will increase from 40 cents to 75 cents, with additional increases on all three fares slated for 2013.

Increases also will take effect at the Gov. Harry M. Nice Memorial Bridge on Route 301 in Southern Maryland, and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway and Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge in the northeastern corner of the state.

There will be no toll increases for the Intercounty Connector, which opened this year in Montgomery County.

When the Maryland Transportation Authority proposed the increases this summer, they were met by fierce opposition from many drivers and politicians — particularly on the Eastern Shore, where residents argued that toll hikes on the Bay Bridge would unfairly tax commuters and discourage tourists.

The agency, which operates separately from the Maryland Department of Transportation and is funded entirely by toll-facility revenues, slightly decreased some of the proposed rate increases before passing a modified version of its initial proposal.

“Somebody is going to have to bear that cost, and generally that ends up being the consumers,” said Delegate Stephen S. Hershey Jr., Queen Anne’s Republican. “The people who fought to lower the increases should be commended, but we’re not happy that the toll increases are going into effect.”

State officials have estimated the increases will generate $90 million in their first year.



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