By Pat Warren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Maryland Transportation Authority raises the tolls on bridges and tunnels. Although public opinion caused the board to scale back on its original plans, drivers say the new increases are still too high.

Pat Warren reports on the hikes.

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Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley says she knows it’s a very tough time and it’s hard for the public.

“It’s the worst time in America, as far as the economy is concerned. People need to keep money in their pockets,” one driver said.

The first phase of toll hikes starts Nov. 1. The Fort McHenry, Harbor tunnels and the Key Bridge tolls will increase from $2 to $3.

The commuter E-ZPass rate stays the same until July 2013.

On I-95 between Baltimore and the Delaware State line and on the Hatem Bridge, the toll goes up from $5 to $6 cash. The E-ZPass raises from 80 cents to $1.50.

Special exceptions are made for the Hatem Bridge only.

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Swaim-Staley says commitments were made and the bills are due. There was no choice, but to raise tolls.

“The state needs 200 million to stay current on its debt service to keep Maryland moving,” Swaim-Staley said.

Swaim-Staley says the money is needed to pay for the infrastructure to keep the transportation systems strong, and to provide for the new systems needed to encourage economic development and decrease some of Maryland’s congestion problems.

At least one lawmaker is outraged by the hike.

Eastern Shore senator E.J. Pipkin says the toll increases will hurt the economy. He says it’s a shame on the board for implementing the hikes.

Phase two of the hikes includes raising the Bay Bridge toll to $6 in 2013.

The first full year of increases at the bridges and tunnels will generate $90 million. When drivers get used to that, the rates will go up again.

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New increases apply to trucks and trailers, as well. The second series of hikes takes effect in 2013.