The Bay Bridge - Gateway from Annapolis to the Eastern Shore
The William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bay Bridge is the gateway route identified as US-50 and MD-301 from points West including Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Washington DC, and Virginia to reach the Eastern Shore and Atlantic Ocean beaches along the Maryland and Delaware coasts.
Operated by the Maryland Transportation Authority, the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bay Bridge is actually two bridges in one. There is an East-bound two lane bridge and a West-bound three lane bridge. During peak travel times the single lane on the Southern (right hand lane) side of the West-bound bridge is opened for East-bound travel. Typically this lane is open for the evening commute across the bridge and from time-to-time when maintenance and other reasons necessitate a closing of one of the lanes on the East-bound bridge.
If you have an E-ZPass you can shorten your time to pass the toll which is only charged to East-bound travelers. Although considered a "round trip", the cost is currently $2.50 for two-axle vehicles and goes up from there. If you're a regular commuter across the bridge, then you should be enrolled for a commuter discount that reduces your round trip fee to $1.00. Current toll rates are posted on the Maryland Transportation Authority website.
Proposed Toll Increase Coming Soon
There's a proposed toll increase coming soon to the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bay Bridge. On June 2nd, the Maryland Transportation Authority posted a notice of phased in toll increases in 2011, 2012 and 2013. There's a sixty-day period of public comment with open meetings to be held in various locations throughout Maryland. The most recent public hearing was held on June 15, 2011 in Stevensville, Maryland.
The Maryland Transportation Authority proposes to increase the tolls for passenger cars on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from $2.50 to $5 starting October 1, 2011. And, to keep increasing it until it reaches $8 in July of 2013. Commuters on the E-ZPass discount plan would see a $0.50 increase from $1.00 per East-bound trip to $1.50 per trip across the bay. Other Maryland Transportation Authority operated toll roads are slated for increases as well including the Harbor Tunnel, the Fort McHenry Tunnel and the Key Bridge.
Information on the proposed toll increases by the Maryland Transportation Authority can be found in their Notice for Public Comment Handout. The handout includes the dates and locations for public hearings. It states that the public may submit comments for the official record by 5 p.m. on August 1, 2011, by visiting www.mdta.maryland.gov; writing to MDTA Toll Comment, 2310 Broening Highway, Baltimore, MD, 21224; or attending one of the public hearings.
Maryland Residents Are Angered Over Toll Increases
As the public hearings continue, residents throughout Maryland are angered over the proposed toll increases. The Monday, June 20, 2011 public hearing held at the Severn River Middle School, as reported in The Capital, Anne Arundel County citizens felt that the increases were a "done deal". For commuters that have to traverse the Bay Bridge daily, this is just one more increase in expenses while wages fail to keep pace. Add the increase to the Bay Bridge toll to higher gasoline prices and you get a costly mix for daily commuters from the Eastern Shore. For commuters living on the Eastern Shore and working along the metro Washington and Baltimore corridor, there are no options to take a different toll free route. Along other routes with bridge and tunnel tolls, there are local toll free routes that take more time but avoid toll booths. Not so on the Bay Bridge.
UPDATE: Maryland Transportation Authority to Reconsider Proposed Toll Hikes
In an article published in the Capital newspaper on July 27, 2011, the State of Maryland has said it is reconsidering the Bay Bridge proposed toll hikes. The voice of local residents in Stevensville Maryland on Kent Island and points East may not have been enough to put a stop to the increases, but, the locally operating trucking companies may have the loudest voice yet.
During yesterday's [July 26, 2011] hearing, trucking company representatives told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee that increasing the tolls as originally planned could drive them out of business. They also said that shipping companies may start using Norfolk, Va., rather than the Port of Baltimore, to avoid the added expense of tolls.
While the final proposal to simply raise tolls at existing toll booths seems to be loosing steam, Maryland is going to have to make up the deficit somehow. It's not fair that residents who have no alternative but to cross over the Bay Bridge will carry an a substantial portion of the fiscal burden for the rest of Maryland in order to cover the cost of repairs and improvements for all.
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