By Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley
Thousands of Marylanders travel our toll facilities every day for work, business, recreation and travel. Tuesday, new toll rates took effect to help fund the work needed to keep these tunnels, bridges and roadways safe, maintained and in good repair, and to pay for two important projects that will improve Maryland’s transportation network.
It has been years, decades in some cases, since the MDTA raised many of its toll rates. Until today, the toll to drive a passenger car across the Bay Bridge was lower than when the original span opened in 1952. Some of our commuter toll rates, like those at the Baltimore Harbor crossings, haven’t been raised in more than 25 years. Meanwhile, the cost to maintain our aging facilities rapidly increases. For example, it cost more to simply paint the Bay Bridge in the late 1990’s than it did to build the original span in the early 1950s.
Maryland’s toll facilities are operated and maintained solely from the toll revenue generated by those facilities. They are not supported by the gas tax, the state’s Transportation Trust Fund or the General Fund. In turn, toll revenue is NOT used to support other highway, transit, port or airport projects across the state. Toll dollars support toll facilities and only toll facilities. To maintain our existing network of tolled bridges, tunnels and highways–all key elements of our overall statewide transportation system–adequate revenue from tolls must be available.
Despite the necessary increase in tolls that took effect today, Maryland’s toll rates are comparable to and sometimes lower than other toll facilities in the region. Maryland’s Bay Bridge is now $4 per round trip, while Philadelphia’s Delaware River Crossings are $5 per round trip and a round trip on New York’s Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is $13.
There is never a good time to raise tolls, but the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) has put this off for as long as possible. Unfortunately, decisions made in 2005 to build two large transportation projects at once, as well as the growing need for maintenance on existing toll facilities, make the increase unavoidable.
Finally, it was important to hear from the public as the MDTA developed this toll plan. Public hearings were held around the state and more than 4,000 comments were received from citizens. As a result of that input, the toll plan was adjusted to address many of the concerns that were raised. I want to thank all those who gave both their time and their ideas to help shape a revenue structure that will fund needed improvements to Maryland’s important toll facilities.
Martin O'Malley is the Governor of Maryland. He writes a regular blog for his official website.