Ari Ashe, wtop.com
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Starting in July, tolls to use several Maryland bridges and tunnels will go up.
Crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the Gov. Harry Nice Bridge will go from $4 to $6 in cash, and $3.60 to $5.40 for E-ZPass drivers.
Tolls on Baltimore's two tunnels and the Key Bridge will also go up, as well as the Thomas J. Hatem Bridge near Havre de Grace. See the full list of toll changes here. (PDF)
"We're using the funds that we get to keep those facilities in good repair, and make them reliable for everyone," says Harold M. Bartlett, Executive Secretary at the Maryland Transportation Authority, which operates toll bridges.
Most drivers at the Grumps Cafe in Annapolis seem to agree with the MdTA's rationale.
"Everyone would be incredibly upset if there was any sort of bridge disaster, so I think the safety of the people is most important thing," says Sophia Meyers. "If that requires an increase in price, that's fair."
"The Bay Bridge has to be worked on all the time, and my father was a steel painter, so I know the costs are skyrocketing," says Bill Nomikos. "I don't mind paying more,"
"It certainly requires a significant amount of money to maintain a bridge," says Brian Fitzpatrick.
However, Fitzpatrick and others do acknowledge that daily commuters across the bridge will be hit hard, having to pay an additional $300 to $600 a year.
"People have to use it everyday to go back and forth to work. I think it's too high, no matter how much you pay to cross," says Michelle Matiz, who works at the cafe.
The Maryland Transportation Authority is currently working on fixes to the westbound deck of the Bay Bridge, and hopes to start a project on the eastbound deck later this year or in 2014.
A six-year environmental study on the Gov. Harry Nice Bridge recently proposed a replacement for the 72-year-old bridge, although even higher tolls won't produce enough money to afford such an undertaking.
However, the new tolls will also go towards paying back on the bonds used to finance the Intercounty Connector, the 18.8-mile tolled highway connecting Gaithersburg to Laurel.
"The tolls should go to the asset being used, so in this case, the bridge, not the ICC," says Brian Fitzpatrick.
Bottom line, the Maryland Transportation Authority believes drivers get a good value for their tolls.
"If you take a look at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York, $13, compared to $6 to cross the Bay Bridge. The Bay Bridge is 4.5 miles long, much longer than the Verrazano," says Harold M. Bartlett.
The George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey to New York, is also $13 cash and $8.25 for E-ZPass drivers.
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