MdTA to vote on final bridge toll plan next week

The Maryland Transportation Authority board plans to vote on revised toll increases for the Susquehanna River bridges and other bridges and tunnels at the board's monthly meeting Sept. 22.

That meeting will be held at 9 a.m. in Baltimore, at 2310 Broening Highway.

State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, who represents Harford and Cecil counties, had said last week she expected the vote to take place by October.

The toll authority board pushed off the final decision by about a month after thousands of residents living around the Susquehanna River bridges protested MdTA's plan to raise tolls and eliminate the AVI decal commuter discount on the Route 40 Thomas J. Hatem Bridge.

Jacobs also said last week she expects the board's final decision to take citizen feedback into account.

The MdTA board said on its website in mid-August it had received about 4,000 comments. The public comment period ended Aug.1.

"They did hear loud and clear from Harford and Cecil regarding the Hatem, and I think they are really going to be taking into consideration everything that went on," Jacobs said.

Jacobs also has sent the state attorney general a letter listing court cases from around the country that upheld local decision-making on issues such as this one, to justify the possibility of making special toll exceptions for the Hatem Bridge.

The proposed toll increases on the Hatem and I-95 Millard Tydings bridges are set to increase Oct. 1, when the base cash toll to cross both spans northbound will rise from $5 to $6. The original MdTA plan would increase those tolls to $8 in July 2013.

The toll authority wants to eliminate the $10 a year, unlimited trip AVI decal and replace it with what the authority calls a "discounted" E-Zpass costing $36 a year but eventually raising to $72 a year in July 2013.

In addition, the E-Zpass system requires the purchase of a transponder and payment of a monthly account maintenance fee of about $1.50.

A toll authority spokesperson said earlier this year there are 150,000 Hatem Bridge AVI decals in circulation. According to the bridge's website, 11 million vehicles cross annually.

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