BALTIMORE – Residents of the Ocean City resort area as well as the Lower Eastern Shore overall will have an opportunity on July 14 to comment at a hearing on the toll-increase plan proposed on June 2 by the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA).
The hearing from 5:30 to 8 p.m. was requested by Sen. James (Jim) N. Mathias and Delegate Norman H. Conway. The location in Ocean City has yet to be determined. Nine other public hearings on the toll proposal are being held in counties near MDTA toll facilities.
The 60-day public-comment period on the proposed increase began June 2 and will continue through 5 p.m. Aug. 1. In addition to obtaining information about the proposed tolling plan and submitting comments for the official record at the hearings, the public can visit mdta.maryland.gov.
The plan to increase tolls is expected to generate approximately $77 million in the first fiscal year for the self-supported agency that owns, operates and maintains Maryland’s eight toll facilities.
Every toll dollar collected will go to the operation and maintenance of the MDTA’s facilities, according to a MDTA release. Toll dollars are not shared with the state’s general fund or Transportation Trust Fund or with local or other state government agencies. The MDTA combines toll revenue from all facilities to pay operating costs and the debt on bonds that are issued to fund major projects. Revenue “pooling” makes the MDTA financially strong with top bond ratings that reduce borrowing costs.
Revenues will help fund $225 million in repairs just to the bay bridge alone over the next six years. The recent re-decking and the initial phases to repaint the westbound span are costing $172 million. The cost to construct the westbound span in 1973 was $148 million.
As a benefit to E-ZPass Maryland customers, the proposal offers Standard Plan customers driving a passenger car, light truck or motorcycle a new 10 percent discount off the cash/base toll rate at all Maryland toll plazas.
The bay bridge toll rate for passenger vehicles is lower now than when the original span opened in 1952, when drivers of passenger cars paid $2.80 round trip, plus $.25 per passenger. If the bay bridge toll increased with inflation, it would cost $23.30 for a round trip today. Toll rates for vehicles with three or more axles were last raised in 2009.