Maryland’s double whammy for truck tolls

| Wednesday, June 08, 2011

So yeah, about that $15 truck toll you currently pay on some Maryland bridges. In two years, those same tolls could be $48 a pop as part of a steep set of increases announced by the Maryland Transportation Authority. Public hearings begin Thursday, June 9.

Truckers are still reeling from a round of truck-only toll increases that took effect in 2009.

Under the proposal floated June 2, tolls for 5- and 6-axle commercial vehicles stand to at least double by July 2013 on each of the authority’s eight facilities. The increases would occur in two phases, with the first tier scheduled to occur Jan. 1, 2012.

The steepest increases are proposed for one-way tolls on the William Preston Lane (Bay) Bridge on U.S. 50/301 and the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge on U.S. 301. Those are both $15 tolls now, but would double to $30 on Jan. 1, 2012, and then increase to $48 on July 1, 2013.

“This is ridiculous, especially in the midst of our current economic situation,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

“Obviously the MTA doesn’t know or doesn’t care that toll costs come out of truckers’ pockets and are generally not passed along to their customers. Tripling tolls on those bridges will likely result in truckers diverting to other less appropriate routes or simply choosing not to service many Maryland communities.”

A current truck toll of $30 on the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, which is part of Interstate 95, would increase to $36 in 2012 and then to $48 in 2013.

Trucker John Chullin of Ocean City, MD, says he’s already operating on a thin profit margin as it is.

“Right now, the freight rates are down. I don’t know how you’re going to do it with these toll increases,” Chullin said.

“With the money we pay for taxes, there shouldn’t be any damned tolls in this nation.”

The Bay Bridge is the primary, if not the only practical, way for trucks coming from the west to access Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

“Doubling and tripling tolls on that bridge will likely have a damning effect on farms, businesses and consumers residing in that part of the state,” said Spencer.

In addition, according to the Notice of Public Comments included with the toll plan, discounts for E-ZPass customers including carriers will be rolled back on Jan. 1, 2012, to a maximum of 10 percent, 15 percent and 20 percent depending on usage.

Chullin has already contacted his state senator on the toll issue and says truckers should be paying close attention to their costs and avoiding the cheap freight.

“You’ve really got to watch what you do out here. That truck of mine will sit until I get the rate I need to run it,” he said.

Public comments on the toll proposal are due no later than 5 p.m., Aug. 1. Leading up to that, the Maryland Transportation Authority has planned nine public hearings.

Each of the hearings will run from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., with formal presentations and testimony scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. as follows:

  • Thursday, June 9, Shady Grove Middle School, 8100 Midcounty Highway, Gaithersburg, MD;
  • Monday, June 13, Digital Harbor High School, 1100 Covington St., Baltimore, MD;
  • Tuesday, June 14, High Point High School, 3601 Powder Mill Road, Beltsville, MD;
  • Wednesday, June 15, Kent Island High School, 900 Love Point Road, Stevensville, MD;
  • Thursday, June 16, Perryville High School, 1696 Perryville Road, Perryville, MD;
  • Monday, June 20, Severn River Middle School, 241 Peninsula Farm Road, Arnold, MD;
  • Tuesday, June 21, Dundalk Middle School, 7400 Dunimanway, Baltimore, MD;
  • Wednesday, June 22, Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School, 12872 Rock Point Road, Newburg, MD; and
  • Monday, June 27, Havre de Grace Activity Center, 351 Lewis Lane, Havre de Grace, MD.

Submit comments at mdta.maryland.gov or in writing to MDTA Toll Comment, 2310 Broening Highway, Baltimore, MD 21224.

See related stories:
Maryland braces for toll increases
Maryland toll increases unfairly target truckers
Maryland increases tolls as truckers call for relief
Maryland tolls to vary with traffic volume

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