Transportation Officials Brief Senate Committees on Toll Reduction Plan

Transportation officials briefed the Senate Budget and Taxation and Senate Finance Committees yesterday on the toll reduction plan that was approved last month by the Maryland Transportation Authority. Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn informed the committees that the $336 million in lost revenue would be offset with unanticipated revenues and spending reductions.

As reported by the Baltimore Sun,

Rahn said the toll reductions approved last month by the Maryland Transportation Authority should have come as no surprise because Republican Gov. Larry Hogan campaigned on a pledge to reduce tolls.

“The governor has said that he believes it is more important to have money in the pockets of hard-working Marylanders than on the balance sheet” of the transportation authority, Rahn said.

While the briefing was about the toll reduction plan, much of the discussion focused on the Nice Bridge in Charles County.

Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton of Charles County, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, raised concerns that the authority was squandering a surplus that could be used to begin the construction phase of a new bridge about 2020.

Rahn assured senators there is still enough money in the authority’s coffers to complete the design of the bridge project, but gave no assurance about where construction funds would come from.

The Department of Legislative Services also presented its analysis of the toll reductions.

Legislative analysts told senators the authority will still be able to keep up with its debt obligations, though with a thinner cushion than before the cuts. They also said the revenue reduction will increase the amount of debt the authority will carry in 2021 by about $200 million — from $1.9 billion to $2.1 billion.

The article also summarizes some of the toll reductions.

These are some of the toll changes taking effect July 1.

•Cash toll on Bay Bridge cut from $6 to $4. New E-ZPass rate of $2.50 for 2-axle vehicle.
•Higher E-ZPass discount of 25 percent at most other toll facilities, up from current 10 percent.
•Lower toll rates on Intercounty Connector and Interstate 95 Express Toll Lanes by 3 cents per mile for two-axle vehicles.
•New 30 percent E-ZPass discount on Hatem Bridge (U.S. 40) for most passenger vehicles with trailers.
•$1.50-a-month E-ZPass fee eliminated for state residents.

Additional coverage can be found in the Washington Post.