Maryland bill would aid input on toll hikes

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rate hikes to access most Maryland toll roads, bridges and tunnels have spurred action at the statehouse to help ensure that truckers and other travelers have more input.

During the fall, the Maryland Transportation Authority implemented toll increases for the first time in more than 20 years for passenger vehicles. Truck drivers did not escape rate hikes either. For the fourth time in about 10 years, higher fees for trucks took effect Jan. 1.

Truck tolls rose from $12 to $18 at the Francis Scott Key Bridge and the Fort McHenry and Baltimore Harbor tunnels. Tolls on Interstate 95 between Baltimore and the Delaware state line increased from $30 to $36. The fee for trucks to travel on the Harry Nice Memorial and Bay bridges went from $15 to $24.

The pocket digging doesn’t end there. Another round of hikes is planned for July 2013.

State officials cite debt costs for new construction for the rate increases. They say the new revenue allows them to pay for repairs on the bridges and tunnels while paying off debt incurred.

In response to the toll increases, the Maryland Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill to the House that is intended to make it more difficult for toll increases to get pushed through.

Sponsored by Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-Upper Shore, the bill would require opportunities for public comment on proposed increases.

“What this bill does is clarify the procedures the MDTA must undertake before implementing a toll, fee or other charge increase,” Pipkin told members of the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, March 28.

Specifically, the bill – SB820 – would mandate a 90-day notice before any MTA vote to increase tolls, fees or other charges. The authority would also be required to take public comment at the meeting a vote is expected.

Truckers, including OOIDA, say the latest round of toll increases is ill-advised in the current economic situation. They also warn that many trucking operations, particularly owner-operators, will not be able to absorb the increases.

OOIDA encourages Maryland truckers to contact their state lawmakers and encourage them to support more oversight of the transportation authority’s actions.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maryland, click here.

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the story topic. Comments may be sent to state_legislative_editor@ooida.com.

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