The tolls from that 18-mile highway won't be enough to pay for the cost of building it, however.
Bartlett noted that the authority pools the revenue from all its facilities so that dollars collected in other places are helping to pay off the loans for the ICC. Similarly, fares from the McHenry tunnel are used to shore up the eroding foundations of the Millard E. Tydings and Hatem Memorial bridges – two of the expensive maintenance jobs the authority is undertaking.
Egeberg finds that system objectionable — even though it's enshrined in all-but-unbreakable bond covenants with the state's debt holders.
"The Harbor Tunnel should be paid for by the Harbor Tunnel," he said. "I don't think they should be mixing and matching."
Bartlett said that even with the increases, Maryland's tolls are not unreasonable. He noted that users of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York pay $13 for a shorter crossing than the Bay Bridge.
"I believe we're still very much in the competitive range compared with other toll facilities around the country," Bartlett said.
For truckers, the day of reckoning will come two months later. In an effort to cushion the blow to the industry, the authority delayed the imposition of truck toll increases until Jan. 1 so companies could factor the higher costs into contracts that coincide with the calendar year.
But Louis Campion, president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, said that's a small consolation.
"It really takes one of the larger national companies to get out there and increase rates," he said.
Campion said long-distance truckers are already struggling to cope with toll increases in states such as Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. For the short-haul truckers who serve the Port of Baltimore, he said, the increased cost of a single round trip through the Baltimore tunnels can add up to more than $3,000 a year.
Part of the problem, Campion said, is that the authority put off increases so long that when it did act, the hikes were "pretty astronomical."
Paul Kelly, the association's chairman and vice president of A&S Intermodal Division, said the two phases of toll increases will increase the cost of a round trip for a five-axle truck through the harbor tunnels from $28 to $48. He said his company already pays about $240,000 in tolls each year. "Now we're talking about a half-million dollars," he said. "Where are we going to get that money from?"
Kelly said the authority picked a terrible time to impose the increases.
"They don't recognize that the recession is not over," he said. His company will recover some of the money from customers, Kelly said, but not all of it.
Economist Anirban Basu, chief executive of Sage Policy Group in Baltimore, said the toll increase will have a negative economic impact on some communities that depend heavily on a particular toll facility. But statewide, he said, the economy can likely absorb the hike.
"I do not think it'll keep anyone from going to Ocean City," he said. "I do not think it'll keep anyone from Kent Island from taking a job in Annapolis."