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Sen. Jacobs: Sun gets it half right on proposed toll increases

Michael Dresser gets it half right in his recent column on the Maryland Transportation Authority's proposed toll increases: The increase proposal for the Hatem Bridge is "cruel," but it is not "fair" ("Increases in bridge, tunnel tolls cruel but fair," June 13). He has not done enough research for his column and has failed to take into consideration factors that make a rise in tolls at the Hatem honestly difficult for a number of families there.

The Hatem Bridge divides two communities where there are many low income earners, retirees and veterans who use Perry Point VA Hospital. They will not just have to come up with $36 dollars for the first year of a toll hike, as you say, but $100 dollars to first buy into the EZ-Pass Hatem Plan. Most people I speak with in Cecil County do not own an EZ-Pass now.

My Senate office has received an overwhelming amount of mail from people who say this will be hard to afford. It's not because they feel "entitled" as you say but because they honestly don't have the money. One single mother in North East says she works the night shift across the Hatem Bridge in Aberdeen and cares for a disabled son. She fears eviction if she is forced to give up her job because she can't afford the expense.

Another retiree from Perryville says she must take care of her elderly brothers and sisters who frequently are admitted to Harford Memorial Hospital over the bridge. She gets teary on the phone talking about barely making it now on Social Security, especially without a cost of living increase. At my news conference last week in Perryville, Mr. Dresser would have heard from people like this, but he didn't attend.

There are economic issues of concern for Cecil and Harford counties as well. Fishermen, horse owners, and owners of campers will be charged huge amounts because their vehicles have three axles. A Harford County resident who wants to go fishing will have to pay $36 to get to Cecil County waterways for the day and get back home. The MdTA Board should not lump this group in with commercial trucks. It's not good for our tourism industry to discourage this recreational activity. The hike will also affect the positive growth at Aberdeen Proving Ground under BRAC, and businesses anywhere near the bridge will suffer. You can already see at the Perryville Outlets there are a lot of vacant storefronts since the toll went from $2.50 to $5.

Sen. Nancy Jacobs, Annapolis

The writer is the Senate Minority Leader. She represents Cecil and Harford counties.

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