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MdTA staff back proposed I-95 tolling plan

Commuting

Staff at the Maryland Transportation Authority on Monday recommended full approval of a proposed rate structure for express toll lanes being installed on Interstate 95.

The proposed structure would allow for rush-hour commuters to pay nearly $5 a day in tolls for use of the lanes, which will run parallel to the highway's non-toll lanes along a seven-mile stretch north of Baltimore.

The lanes are set to open late next year.

The recommendation follows a public comment period and three public hearings on the proposed rate structure, after the MdTA board approved it in September. Some commenters criticized the rate structure as being too expensive.

The staff recommendation will be considered by the board before its final vote to approve the rate structure on Dec. 12. The final toll fees will be determined by MdTA's acting executive secretary Bruce Gartner, based on the board's recommendation.

Gartner begins as the agency's permanent executive secretary effective Dec. 11.

Gartner will be limited to setting rates within the ranges set forward in the proposed rate structure. The MdTA board has said it would like to see rates at the lower end of the range.

The structure, which charges passenger vehicles between 25 and 35 cents per mile during peak periods, was first recommended by the MdTA staff based on an independent traffic and revenue analysis conducted by an outside firm, the MdTA said.

The study considered the value of people's time versus congestion in the area, the MdTA said.

The lanes are part of a $1.1 billion project to ease traffic along the corridor. The project also included the reconstruction of the interchange between I-95 and Interstate 695 in Rossville.

Members of the public are encouraged to attend the MdTA board's Dec. 12 meeting, where they will be allowed to provide comment. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the MdTA's project office, at 8019 Corporate Drive, Suite F, in White Marsh.

krector@baltsun.com

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