CECIL COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — For several decades, a pre-paid decal was enough to cross the Hatem Bridge. But, as Weijia Jiang reports, those stickers will be history in just a few months. An E-ZPass or cash will be required.
The Hatem Bridge, which connects Cecil and Harford Counties, is a necessity for locals who use it.
“Sometimes three times a day, if not more,” said Laura Parks, who lives in Perryville.
Now the Maryland Transportation Authority is overhauling the way drivers pay to use it. Once a year, they buy an Avi decal for $10, good for an unlimited number of trips. But Sept. 30 is the last day the stickers can ever be used. E-ZPasses or cash will be the only way to go.
“Everyone’s mad about it. They’re not thinking about the people who live along the river,” Parks said.
In fact, the community has been mad for months and waged a war against proposed fee hikes that would have tripled the cost. The state agreed to give people two cheaper options. Choice A give them unlimited access to the bridge for $10 in 2012 and a free E-ZPass transponder until next January, with no minimum account or fees linked to their accounts. Choice B is for customers who want a standard E-ZPass. They’ll pay $10 to add unlimited bridge access, $9 for a transponder and keep at least $25 in their account. In 2013, the price for both plans will go up to $20.
Officials expect the stop-in centers will be packed with people signing up.
“For customers’ convenience, we’re increasing the staff at our stop-in centers, we’re adding equipment, we’re extending hours,” said Randy Brown.
The MdTA is planning to hold two community open houses for people who still have questions about how all this works. One will be from 5-7 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Havre de Grace Activity Center (351 Lewis Lane) with a snow date of Feb. 22. The other will be Feb. 21 at Perryville High School (1696 Perryville Road) with a snow date of Feb. 23.
MdTA will visit other community locations, businesses and events through September to sign up customers for E-ZPass.