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Traffic growth helps make up for lower Md. tolls, report finds

Toll revenue at the Harry Nice Bridge, which carries U.S. 301 over the Potomac River between Virginia and Maryland, was down in fiscal 2016, but not as much as the reduction in toll fees. (Courtesy Maryland Transportation Authority)

WASHINGTON — The first year of toll reductions across Maryland led to a drop in toll revenue, but a rise in traffic volume helped offset that decrease, according to a new report released by state transportation officials.

The Maryland Transportation Authority says toll facilities across the state took in more than $644 million in fiscal 2016 (July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016), compared with more than $649 million the previous year — a drop of less than 1 percent.

That decrease, according to the MDTA, was smaller than expected and “exceeded the revenue forecast.”

Toll revenue has been going down since Gov. Larry Hogan announced a reduction in tolls and fees in 2015. He said it would save Marylanders $54 million each year and would be “by far our largest tax relief package to date.”

Tolls at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge went from $6 to $4 for those paying with cash, and from $5.40 to $2.50 round-trip for E-ZPass users. Tolls also went down at the Baltimore Harbor and Fort 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.

“This is the first time tolls have been lowered in Maryland in 50 years,” Hogan said.

Last year, revenue at all toll facilities, excluding the Intercounty Connector and I-95 Express Toll Lanes, declined by $13.7 million, or 2.3 percent. The largest reduction was at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, where toll revenue fell by more than $28 million, while revenue at the Harry Nice Bridge was down more than $200,000.

However, the MDTA says, revenue on the I-95 Express Lanes and the ICC grew by 85.3 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively. Traffic volume was up 109.5 percent on the I-95 Express Lanes, 24.3 percent on the ICC and 2.9 percent at all other toll facilities.

Across the state, there were 157 million toll transactions last year compared with 143 million in 2015, an increase of more than nine percent.

“Strong traffic growth in 2016” mitigated the revenue impact of “toll and fee reductions,” the report says.


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