Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Drivers now pay more to pass through Maryland’s toll booths, and the record increases are hitting some cash-strapped drivers where it hurts.
Derek Valcourt has more on the increase and the not-so-happy drivers paying them.
Drivers pulling up to the toll booths are coming face-to-face with what amounts to the largest package of toll increases in Maryland history.
Higher tolls are the new reality in Maryland, and many drivers like Harford County’s Lisa Kelly aren’t happy.
“The extra money that I have to put out for it is crazy,” Kelly said.
Here’s the breakdown: tolls for the tunnels and the Key Bridge go up from $2 to $3 cash with the commuter rate increasing from 40 cents to 75 cents. The cost to cross the Bay Bridge jumps from $2.50 to $4 cash. The E-ZPass commuter rate stays the same until July 2013. And on 1-95 Kennedy Highway and on the Hatem Bridge, the toll goes up from $5 to $6.
These increases have drivers looking for any discount they can get.
“The hike on the toll actually drove me down here to get an E-ZPass,” said Kenya Chalmers.
State officials insist they need these increases to pay for the maintenance and upkeep on their aging bridges, tunnels and toll facilities.
The higher tolls will also help cover costs for the I-95 express lane currently under construction north of Baltimore and help pay debts for the $2.5 billion Inter-County Connector highway linking 95 and 270.
That’s reason some drivers don’t mind forking out more.
“If you want to have good roads you’ve got to pay for it,” said James Pitman.
“It’s a disaster, said Maurice Watkins. “It’s a disgrace.”
But daily Harbor Tunnel users like Watkins say the toll hike adds an extra $40 to his commute each month.
“Bad enough my income is not going up, that stays the same. And my job is thinking about furloughing and laying off. Yet the state is raising the toll prices, which is outrageous,” Watkins said.
The MdTA says the new tolls will generate $90 million in revenue for the state in the first year alone.
Phase two of the toll increases will begin in 2013.