PRESS RELEASEJun. 1st, 2011
For Whom the Bridge Tolls…
By Delegate Mike McDermott
Recently, the O’Malley administration and the MD Transportation Authority have decided that, after 35-years, we are due for a toll increase on the Bay Bridge. Their answer was not an incremental adjustment to be absorbed over time, but rather an immediate 100% increase. This is to be followed the next year by an additional 60% bounce taking the toll from the current $2.50 all the way to $8.00. This meets a good definition for “excessive”.
While this may have a negligible impact on vacationers making their annual trek to Ocean City, it appears little thought has been given to the impact on commerce this will have for the mid and upper shore areas.
Consider that when Virginia built their Bridge-Tunnel, the toll was set high and has remained so from the beginning. Clearly, Virginia did not build it for commuters and North Hampton County remained relatively quiet when compared with the Virginia Beach/Norfolk metro area. It was a clear choice, and many would say a “good one”.
On the Maryland side, quite the opposite has been the case. A toll which amounts to $1.25 one way would surely encourage commerce and development on the Eastern Shore. It would insure a rapid expansion of the metro area by creating a readily available suburb for those willing to simply drive a few extra miles and pay a small toll for the privilege of living on the Eastern Shore. The rest of the shore would benefit from increased commercial traffic and day trips would become common. Maryland’s Eastern Shore would never be the same.
By maintaining a low toll, Maryland made the choice to potentially subsidize repairs to the bridge, as needed, beyond the revenue stream provided to insure the successful industrial, commercial, and residential development of the shore. Our prosperity has resulted in multiplied tax revenues for state coffers from that development far beyond that which would have been realized from any increased toll.
Now, after nearly four decades, we are going to raise the toll by nearly 300%. It looks like the proverbial “bait and switch” for the Eastern Shore. Queen Anne’s and Kent Counties will take it on the chin while the rest of us get bruised. At a time of economic pain and uncertainty, this tax increase should be on the back burner.
The time is now to weigh in with the Maryland Transportation Authority and the Governor’s Office as the “proposal” will become a reality very soon.
As it stands, we will pay for that toll in every loaf of bread, in every lost day tripper, and in just one more hurdle to tourism and commerce. For those commuters who sought a refuge on the shore, your discretionary income just took a big hit and many in Annapolis are choosing to look the other way.