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Maryland approves statewide toll hikes

Thursday - 9/22/2011, 2:25pm  ET

BALTIMORE - Motorists will be paying higher tolls on Maryland bridges, highways and tunnels beginning Nov. 1.

Under a unanimous vote Thursday, the Maryland Transportation Authority voted to raise the tolls on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from $2.50 to $4 and the Harry Nice Bridge from $3 to $4.

The tolls will be raised again in July 2013 to $6.

Tolls on the Baltimore Key Bridge, Harbor Tunnel and Fort McHenry Tunnel will increase from $2 to $3, then rise to $4 in July 2013.

The passed measure also includes a rise in price for motorists who use the Intercounty Connector without an E-ZPass transponder. Drivers without an E-ZPass will pay 150 percent of the base toll, which will change depending on the time of day. Drivers currently pay a $3 fee for not using an E-ZPass.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley were difficult but necessary.

"We've issued debt, as is common to pay for those facilities," Swaim-Staley says. "The debt service is coming due."

Officials say the tolls will raise $90 million in the first full year and $225 million by 2014.

The money generated by the tolls is expected to pay for aging infrastructure around the state, the remainder of the ICC project and I-95 toll lanes near Baltimore.

Md. State Senator E.J. Pipkin (R - Eastern Shore) says there is little comfort in the transportation authority deciding on a lower toll for the Bay Bridge.

"It is wrong, and these toll increases will hurt the economy," Pipkin says. "Shame on this board."

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)