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Battle Intensifies Over Increased Highway Tolls

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Not backing down. The battle is intensifying over plans to raise area highway tolls. Some communities are now taking on the state, saying they just won’t have it.

Weijia Jiang explains what some are doing to try to stop it.

Maryland drivers like Bubba Morris are angry.

“This is really a slap in the face for everyone up here,” said Joe “Bubba” Morris, of Perryville.

And they’re pushing back, waging a war on Maryland’s proposed toll hikes over the Route 40 and I-95 bridges.

Local governments are siding with taxpayers.

This week, the Harford County Council unanimously passed a resolution denouncing the increase.

“I could drive in my car to Key West, Fla. and not pay one penny in tolls. That’s just not fair,” said David Craig, Harford Co. Executive.

At the center of the toll fight is the Thomas Hatem Bridge, which connects Harford and Cecil counties.

Currently drivers pay $10 a year for a decal that permits unlimited trips. The MDTA wants to raise that to $36 in October, and then $72 in 2013.

It’s not just the amount of money outraging these communities. It’s where the cash would go. Many say they feel they’re being targeted to raise funds for the state, funds they may never see again.

In fact, the resolution reads the increase would produce regional disparity, create a significant local burden, disproportionately cause harm to those who rely on the bridge, including businesses on both sides of it.

“It would hurt us a lot,” said Shirley Patterson, Lindy’s Market.

People are on fixed income and they just can’t afford to do it.

At public hearings and several rallies, residents are sending the message they don’t plan to lose this battle.

“They’ll just walk all over you if you don’t stand up for yourself,” Morris said.

If passed, the cost to cross the Bay Bridge would double.

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