E-ZPass transponders now free in Md., Hogan announces

WASHINGTON — All Maryland drivers can now get an E-ZPass transponder for free.

Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan made the announcement during a news conference Wednesday morning at the Bay Bridge.

“Starting today, we are permanently eliminating all upfront costs for the E-ZPass,” Hogan announced. “No upfront costs, no monthly costs, no costs at all — and lower tolls for using it.”

Previously, the transponders, which are affixed to drivers windshields and allow cheaper access to toll roads, cost $7.50 for new customers in Maryland.

Hogan said the Maryland Transportation Authority is permanently eliminating the upfront fee. In addition, the state will provide automatic refunds to anyone who bought a transponder in 2018 and will replace 400,000 older E-ZPass transponders in circulation for free, Hogan said.

The governor said eliminating fees for new customers would result in $6 million in savings over five years.

Because the transponders provide cheaper rates for traveling toll roads compared to paying cash, Hogan said Maryland drivers would save $40 million in tolls over the next five years.

The move comes as Maryland has begun exploring phasing out all cash toll booths across the state. Still, there is no timetable for timetable for transitioning away from cash.

“There are still certain people that, for whatever reason, prefer to sit in long lines and dig in their pocket and find change and pay,” Hogan said Wednesday. “But with now free E-ZPasses and with these huge savings, I think we’ll get to the point where nearly everybody’s going to want to use the E-ZPass. But there’s no immediate timeline for forcing people to do it.”

Hogan said cutting E-ZPass fees would not have a negative effect on state revenue or make funding road and bridge projects more difficult.

“We have literally studied all these things and made sure we have plenty of revenue,” Hogan said. “We’re now moving forward with roads and bridges across the state. We’re flush with revenue. It’s not going to be an issue. We’d rather put it back in the pockets of Marylanders so they can grow our economy.”

Drivers using the Maryland E-ZPass typically save 25 percent or more on tolls in the state. At the Bay Bridge, drivers with a Maryland E-ZPass save more than 37 percent — paying $2.50 instead of the cash rate of $4.

In 2015, the Hogan administration eliminated a $1.50 monthly maintenance fee for E-ZPass users.

The free transponder is not limited to Maryland residents. But out-of-state residents who sign up for a Maryland E-ZPass are charged the $1.50 monthly fee unless they drive on Maryland toll roads at least three times a month.

In addition, the cost of a transponder for an E-ZPass Flex in Maryland remains unchanged at $16.50.

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