Maryland cuts tolls on Bay Bridge, ICC

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that tolls across the state will drop on July 1, after the Maryland Transportation Authority approved the decreases on Thursday morning.

The authority also eliminated the monthly maintenance fee charged to E-ZPass holders.

Hogan says he has heard repeated complaints from Marylanders about the tolls on the state’s roads, tunnels and bridges. During his campaign for governor, he pledged to reduce the burden of fees and taxes on the state’s businesses and residents.

“This is the first time tolls have been lowered in Maryland in 50 years. Most importantly, we are allowing Maryland families and businesses to keep more of their hard earned money, which helps our struggling economy,” Hogan says.

“These back-to-back massive toll hikes meant struggling Marylanders faced more to go to work every day, and they also had to pay more for family trips to the beach as they crossed the beautiful Chesapeake,” Hogan says.

Tolls at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge will drop from $6 to $4 for those paying with cash, and will shrink from $5.40 to $2.50 round-trip for E-ZPass users.

Tolls will also go down at the Baltimore Harbor and Ft. McHenry tunnels, along with the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge, John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway and the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge. Cash prices will remain the same, but the discount for Maryland E-ZPass users will increase from 10 percent to 25 percent.

Tolls at the Harry Nice Bridge will drop from $5.40 to $4.50 round-trip.

Tolls will also drop on the Intercounty Connector in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Starting July 1, tolls will decrease $0.03 per mile. During rush hours, tolls will drop from $0.25 per mile to $0.22 per mile. Outside of rush hours, tolls will be $0.17 per mile. Overnight, drivers will pay $0.07 per mile.

In comparison, toll prices on the 495 and 95 express lanes in Northern Virginia range from $0.20 to $0.80 on average per mile.

Hogan hopes the lower tolls will encourage more drivers to take the ICC.

E-ZPass changes

The state will also eliminate the $1.50 monthly maintenance fee for drivers with a Maryland E-ZPass on July 1.

“These fees were much hated. Instituting those monthly fees was a mistake that cost tens of thousands of people to drop their E-ZPass, to switch their E-ZPass to other states, and it discouraged countless thousands of others from ever signing up for a Maryland E-ZPass. With our actions today, more than 2 million drivers will benefit from this entire plan,” says Hogan.

Concerns and the fate of the Harry Nice Bridge

The measures were not approved unanimously. The vote to drop tolls on the Bay Bridge and other bridges and tunnels across the state passed on an 8-2 vote.

Maryland Transportation Authority board members Arthur Hock and Michael Whitson voted no.

“If you look at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the cost to maintain it and you look at the cost of transporting across it each time, then it is one of the least expensive bridges in the United States. Reducing the tolls on the Bay Bridge, to me, is a greater reduction than should have happened,” Hock says.

Whitson was concerned how the toll reductions would impact plans to replace the Harry Nice Bridge in the coming decades. The bridge carries U.S. 301 over the Potomac River connecting Southern Maryland and Virginia.

“This jeopardizes our progress over the last 12 to 14 years. I’ve been close to this and I’m concerned that this measure will derail the progress on the Nice Bridge. I’m also concerned about not consulting with the lawmakers and the community at large before this vote,” says Whitson.

Sen. Thomas Middleton, D-Charles, is also concerned that reducing tolls could delay replacement of the Harry Nice Bridge, he wrote in a letter to the state’s transportation secretary.

“While it may be politically expedient to reduce tolls, an unintended consequence could be to delay the replacement of a 73-year-old, functionally obsolete bridge,” Middleton wrote. “Replacement is badly needed for safety and the economic vitality of Southern Maryland.”

Hogan said the toll reductions won’t affect replacing the bridge.

“It’s currently in study, and it’s not under construction, and this money won’t affect that at all,” Hogan said.

In response to Whitson’s criticism about the lack of community engagement, Hogan said that Marylanders will be pleased with the authority’s approval of his administration’s toll reduction plan. He said voters elected him into office last November to cut taxes.

The reduction packaged approved Thursday will cut toll collections by about $54 million annually.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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