Toll hikes: Speak now or forever hold your peace

Written by on July 27, 2011 in Baltimore Voices, Featured - No comments

Some people are willing and possibly even happy about the possibility of paying more in order to travel over bridges and through tunnels.

For everyone else, deadline period to voice objections to the proposed toll hike is Monday, Aug. 1 at 5 p.m.

That’s this coming Monday, people.

Don’t want to speak up? Then be prepared to pay up and not complain when toll rates rise in October of 2011, then again in July of 2013. The higher toll that will likely take place in July 2013 will be double what cash-lane drivers are paying now. Photo courtesy of MDTA

The 60-day comment period opened at the beginning of June. The Guide carried an article about it on June 8. For those who need a refresher, the facts are as follows:

This year’s proposal states that as of October 1, 2011, toll rates (currently $2 for a passenger car or other two-axle vehicle) will increase to $3. On July 1, 2013, it would increase again, to $4.

Yeah, you read that right.

Drivers using EZ Pass, the window-mounted transponder that allows them to pass through the express toll lanes without stopping to hand over cash, would also be subject to rate increases, though theirs would be lower than those stopping at toll booths to pay the full cash rate.

Those interested in stating their position on the proposed toll hike can do so by going to the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA)’s website, www.mdta.maryland.gov, and clicking on the appropriate link. Comments can also be submitted in writing to MdTA Toll Comment, 2310 Broening Highway, Baltimore, MD, 21224.

And yes, we know: the comment period is (for all intents and purposes) a formality. After all, back in 2003, MdTA made another formal proposition, to raise toll rates for two-axle vehicles at the Fort McHenry Tunnel, Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and Francis Scott Key Bridge. After a public comment period, those rates doubled, jumping from $1 per vehicle to $2 per car.

We didn’t have access to the comments that came in back then, but we’re betting there wasn’t a cheering section for a raise.

But the fact remains: this is the comment period, and you’re being asked to comment. If you’re on the road and you use the bridges and/or tunnels and you’re not in favor of the hike (or even if you are), you should say something. You’ll get to exercise your right to free speech, even if you do it by e-mail.

Commenting on the proposed toll hikes is taking action, and not sitting passively by. So is voting. So is getting involved with a local community association or neighborhood group.

It’s easy to say your input doesn’t change things and can’t make a difference. The fact is, it can and it does. Maybe not every time, but it’s more likely to do so when you do give input.

The worst thing to do is to do nothing, and you can certainly do that. Just realize that if you do sit around instead of speaking up, you’ve forfeited your right to complain about the outcome. At least in these pages.

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by Mary Helen Sprecher
newsroom@baltimoreguide.com

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