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Maryland Moves Toward Approval Of Toll Increases

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Like it or not, Maryland's bridges and tunnels are getting more expensive to cross. On Thursday, the state got the go-ahead to hike toll rates by several dollars.

Andrea Fujii has what the state plans to do with that money—and backlash from angry drivers.

One thing is clear, tolls will be going up this fall and once again in 2013. Right now the state is trying to iron out exactly how. We have the latest proposal.

 Many drivers agree higher tolls will take a toll on their budget. 

"I'm not happy about anything doubling in price," said Marge Wolf, of Arnold. "Everything is-- gas, tolls, food." 

Eventually, they'll all double. The Baltimore Harbor crossings cost $2 now and will go up to $3 this fall—and then $4 each way in 2013. 

"That's awful," said Veronica Mundy, of Washington Village. "I guess I'll be driving through the city." 

The current Baltimore commuter rate is 40 cents and is set to go up to 90 cents in October 2011—and then $1.40 in the summer of 2013.

 If you take the Bay Bridge, you currently pay $3. It will go up to $5 in the fall, and then $8 in 2013. 

"The money that is collected does not go to other places," said Beverley Swaim-Staley, Maryland Transportation Secretary. "The money that's collected by these facilities goes right back into the facilities." 

The State Transportation Department says the needed increases will cover improvements, such as $410 million for the three Baltimore Harbor crossings and $225 million for the Bay Bridge. 

"They are very sophisticated structures," Swaim-Staley said. "And much of what we maintain people don't even see; it's underwater." 

"With the combination of gas prices and the tolls going up, it will damper our trips to Annapolis; and we like to go to the Rams Head quite a bit," said Barbara Clark, of Harford County.

One thing in this proposal that is brand new is an incentive to get  people to use an E-ZPass. If the proposal goes through, anyone with an E-ZPass will get a 10 percent discount off of the cash toll price.

There will be a series of public hearings this summer, and whatever increase is decided on will go into effect this fall.

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