BERLIN — State transportation officials clearly got the message about Marylanders’ dissatisfaction with a proposal to increase the tolls at the Bay Bridge in two phases over the next two years, agreeing yesterday to lower the proposed hikes in a compromise of sorts.
Last spring, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) announced a plan to first double tolls at the Bay Bridge, from the current $2.50 one way to $5 this fall and more than triple the toll to $8 by July 2013. The proposed hikes were part of a larger plan to increase the tolls at bridges and tunnels across Maryland in an effort to raise revenue for future transportation projects and to maintain the safety and appearance of the existing structures.
The proposal met with public outcry from every corner of Maryland, particularly the Eastern Shore. For example, hundreds showed up to protest the proposed toll hikes at a meeting at Stephen Decatur Middle School in July, one of 10 similar meetings held around the state.
While most did not object to the proposal to raise the Bay Bridge toll, which had not been increased since 1975, most said the proposed hikes were too much, too fast. The Maryland Transportation Authority Board clearly got the message and went back to the drawing board. Yesterday, the MDTA Board approved a scaled back toll increase plan across the state, including the Bay Bridge.
As a result, the one-way toll on the Bay Bridge will increase from the current $2.50 to $4 on Nov. 1, and will go up again to $6 on July 1, 2013. Similar concessions were made for other bridges, tunnels and toll roads across Maryland.
“During the last several weeks, the Board members and I thoroughly reviewed with MDTA staff how we could revise the proposal based on the comments and suggestions from our citizens, customers and elected officials,” said MDTA Chairperson and Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley. “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.”
The toll-hike plan is projected to generate roughly $90 million in its first full year. Swaim-Staley said the compromise was reached in response to the feedback from citizens.
“These are tough decisions, but I assure you, we listened,” she said. “It was extremely beneficial for the Board Members and me to be in the communities during the 10 public hearings, listening to citizens who must cross some of our facilities more than once or twice a day.”