The level of the proposed increase in tolls is outrageous during this austere time and is expected to generate an additional $77 million per year. Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) toll revenue supports Maryland's tunnels, bridges and turnpikes. The MdTA says it wants to keep the tolls comparable to other states in the region. That is a ridiculous justification for imposing an extra burden on taxpayers and totally unfair in light of the recent increases in other tolls, vehicle registration fees and EZPass transponder charges.
The current proposal will increase tolls to $3 on Oct. 1, and on July 1, 2013 to $4 for the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, Fort McHenry Tunnel and the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway and the Thomas Hatem Memorial Bridge will increase to $6 on Oct. 1, and to $8 by July 1, 2013. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge will increase from the current $2.50 to $5 by Oct. 1, and to $8 by July 1, 2013. The Nice Bridge will increase from $3 to $5 on Oct. 1, and to $8 by July 1, 2013. For vehicles with three or more axles, the increases are even more staggering. I am vehemently opposed to these changes.
MdTA's "need" for the additional revenue stems from the fact that funds from the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) have been regularly transferred to the state's general fund and not replaced. The trust fund is a non-lapsing special fund that provides money for transportation projects. It consists of tax and fee revenues, operating revenues, bond proceeds and fund transfers. The failure to replace the transferred money concerns me greatly because the dedicated purpose fund is not being used for transit projects and masks the huge problems with overspending. It is a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Every one of us has been affected by this recession. Housing prices continue to deteriorate and are causing a downturn in construction trades, manufacturing and jobs. Many of our neighbors are out of work. The national unemployment rate for May was 9.1 percent. The overall economy is in a tenuous recovery at best. Imposing this tremendous increase on commuters is wrong.
You may contact the Maryland Transportation Authority and submit comments for the official record via a web form at http://www.mdta.maryland.gov or by writing to: MdTA Toll Comments, 2310 Broening Highway, Baltimore, MD 21224. The public comment period is open now until Aug. 1. Nine meetings will be held around the state. In Baltimore County, it will be on June 22. The hearing locations are listed online at http://www.mdta.maryland.gov.
I encourage you to let all of our leaders know your views about these ill-advised increases.
Del. Susan L.M. Aumann,Timonium
The writer, a Republican, represents District 42 in the House of Delegates.