Joppa resident Adrian Cox, left, talks with Maryland Transportation Authority representatives Carl Chamberlin, a project manager, and Brian Wolfe, acting director of project development, during a public meeting Wednesday evening at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School, on extending Express Toll Lanes on I-95 north into Harford County.
Joppa resident Adrian Cox, left, talks with Maryland Transportation Authority representatives Carl Chamberlin, a project manager, and Brian Wolfe, acting director of project development, during a public meeting Wednesday evening at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School, on extending Express Toll Lanes on I-95 north into Harford County. (David Anderson/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Joppa resident John Lynn pointed out on a map how the state’s plans to rebuild the Clayton Road overpass crossing I-95 — part of a $1.1 billion, multi-year project to extend Express Toll Lanes on I-95 north into Harford County — could impact his neighborhood nearby.

“This is going to be shut down for a long, long time,” said Lynn, who lives off of Clayton Road and was one of more than 100 people who attended a public meeting on the express toll lane extension Wednesday evening at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School in Abingdon.

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The Maryland Transportation Authority, which owns and operates toll bridges, tunnels and highways throughout the state, hosted two public workshops on the express toll lane project this week; the first was at Perry Hall High School in Baltimore County on Monday, followed by Wednesday’s meeting at the elementary school.

MDTA officials plan to create two express toll lanes along more than 10 miles of I-95 between the Route 43 interchange in White Marsh and north of Route 24 in southern Harford County. They will be extended north from the existing toll lanes that run between I-895 in Baltimore and Route 43. The initial express toll lanes, which opened in 2014, were designed to relieve traffic congestion on I-95.

Kelly Melhem, a spokesperson for the MDTA, said the agency is seeing more traffic on the existing toll lanes than initial estimates — 9 million vehicles traveled on the Baltimore County lanes in fiscal year 2017, she said.

“From an anecdotal perspective, that has helped the traffic flow in the other lanes, in the general-purpose lanes, as well, especially during peak times,” Melhem said.

The MDTA’s Harford County project includes extending two toll lanes, plus rebuilding two highway overpasses at Abingdon Road and Clayton Road, building new noise-reduction walls, relocating the current park-and-ride lot near Route 152 and building a new park-and-ride at Route 24.

Construction is scheduled to last through 2026, with the first section ending at Route 152 opening in 2023 and the final section past Route 24 opening in late 2026, according to MDTA documents on display during the meeting.

At least 110 people attended Wednesday’s meeting, held in the elementary school cafeteria. The skies began clearing in time for the meeting, after a major rain storm moved through Harford County that afternoon.

“The turnout been really, really good,” Melhem said. “The weather did not deter people from coming.”

People could interact with MDTA staffers, asking questions and giving comments on aspects of the project, which were displayed on boards set up around the cafeteria.

Joppa resident Adrian Cox said he was able to get most of his questions answered. He replied that “the state needs the money” when asked his thoughts on the project.

John Lynn, of Joppa, points out on a map how plans to rebuild the Clayton Road overpass, part of the Maryland Transportation Authority's project to extend Express Toll Lanes on I-95 into Harford County, will affect his neighborhood during a public meeting on the project Wednesday at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School.
John Lynn, of Joppa, points out on a map how plans to rebuild the Clayton Road overpass, part of the Maryland Transportation Authority's project to extend Express Toll Lanes on I-95 into Harford County, will affect his neighborhood during a public meeting on the project Wednesday at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School. (David Anderson/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Lynn, the Clayton Road-area resident, said he and his neighbors will have to use a detour along Route 7 while the overpass is being rebuilt. He also cited benefits, though, such as the walls reducing traffic noise from I-95, and the new toll lanes reducing congestion as “they move the traffic through better.”

Lynn said he and his family can sit out on winter evenings and see the traffic on I-95 through trees that are bare of leaves.

“We just look at the traffic, just sitting there,” he said.

People could also purchase an E-ZPass transponder during Wednesday’s meeting. They could pay $25 and get the transponder for free, giving them $25 up front that can be used to pay for tolls in Maryland and any other state in the eastern U.S. where E-ZPass is accepted. Maryland residents also receive 25 percent off tolls in their home state when using E-ZPass.

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“They’re good anywhere in the state of Maryland, anywhere from Maine to North Carolina to Illinois,” said Barb Finlayson, an MDTA toll manager who was signing people up for E-ZPass.

In October, the MDTA will begin cashless toll collection at the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge on U.S. Route 40, which spans the Susquehanna River between Harford and Cecil counties, and the Francis Scott Key Bridge on I-695 in Baltimore. Tolls will be collected via E-ZPass or video tolling.

Toll both removal began at the Hatem Bridge this week, with one lane closing. Three toll lanes, two E-Z Pass only and one cash lane, remain available for now.

S. Wayne Carter Jr. contributed to this article.

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