With area transportation funds dwindling, and legislators shirking their responsibilities year after year to ensure that dedicated revenues for transportation (like the gas tax) keep pace with inflation and population growth, State officials across the region have little choice but to raise toll rates.  So here is what is coming: 

The toll man cometh


Tolls for two-axle vehicles


Rate before July 1, 2011 As of Oct. 1, 2011 As of July 1, 2013

Hatem Memorial Bridge

$10/year with decal, $5 for trip

$72/year EZPass plan to replace decal, $6 for trip


$132 million in repairs needed

Bay Bridge $2.50



$225 million needed to maintain Bay Bridge over next six years

Nice Bridge $3



$21 million in repairs needed

I-95 Turnpike (Kennedy Highway) $5



$121 million needed for highway work

Francis Scott Key Bridge $2  



$410 million needed for combined work on Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key and Baltimore Harbor Tunnel repairs

Baltimore Harbor Tunnel $2



see Key Bridge

Fort McHenry Tunnel




see Key Bridge

ICC $1.45/peak, $1.15/off peak/$.60 overnight

Only toll exempt from raise

Virginia Current

Jan. 1, 2012

Dulles Toll Road



Dulles Greenway

$3.70 ($4 during peak hours)

$4.50 ($4.80 during peak hours)

The choice we face is clear.  We can: (a) pay a few pennies more at the pump, (b) get used to a lot more tolls and higher transit fares, or (c) watch roads, bridges and transit service deteriorate to the point where the region becomes unliveable, major employers leave, and our economy tanks like Detroit.   Some combination of (a) and (b) would be a lot less damaging to our economy, business climate, and pocketbooks than option (c).

Today the 2030 Group released a new study that was conducted jointly by SMTA and the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, to explore how the region sets transportation priorities and what leading experts in the field feel those priorities should be.   The survey was conducted over the past several months through telephone surveys and focus groups with over 40 top transportation professionals from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

 Summary of the Key Findings:

1.      The nation’s most congested region lacks a well-defined short-list of transportation investments that would have the greatest potential to reduce congestion/improve mobility over the next 20 years.

2.      Among transportation professionals, significant consensus exists as to highway and public transit investments that would be the most productive. 

3.      The top-ten projects are listed in the report, including continued investment in Metro System Maintenance and Operations, New Potomac Bridges, and multi-modal projects to add capacity in several key transportation corridors.

4.      The prioritization process should focus heavily on highway and transit investments that do the most to reduce travel times/delays, reduce congestion, and improve transportation network safety and reliability.

5.      Meeting the region’s transportation challenges requires not only selecting/advancing the right priorities, but a new process that is more regional and professional and less parochial, political and ideologically driven.

The number-one priority identified by regional experts:  Invest in current Metro system operations, core capacity and maintenance.  Multi-modal investments to area highways, bridges and new transit lines to better connect regional activity centers and key economic corridors together throughout the region rounded out most of the remaining  top-10 priorities, along with better land-use policies to encourage more transit-oriented development.

This independent study was sponsored by the 2030 Group, an association of business and community leaders working towards greater regional cooperation on long-term planning and economic issues.

The Maryland Transportation Authority has given preliminary approval for the first significant hike in toll rates in decades.  They are now in the process of receiving public input on the proposed rates before they go into effect October 1st. 

Among other things, the new proposal would increase tolls on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from $2.50 to $5.00 this year (and to $8 in 2013).  Tolls on Baltimore’s Harbor Tunnel, Fort McHenry Tunnel and the Key Bridge would go from $2 to $3 one-way.

The funding is needed to make up for decades of inflation since the last major increase, according to the Authority, and to restore the agencie’s ability to keep pace with maintenance, safety and repairs.

As of March 7th, the free ride on the ICC comes to an unfortunate end.  The new toll rates are included in this fact sheet from the Maryland Transportation Authority, the agency now operating the InterCounty Connector.  Also included is information on EZ-Pass, clearly something you’ll want to do if you plan to use the ICC regularly.

Much discussion has taken place in recent years about the pricing of the tolls, which is higher than many would like.  While the rates are higher than many older toll facilities that long-ago paid off all their construction costs, if it is any comfort, they are in line with other new toll facilities in terms of the cost per mile.  State officials are saying the adjustable rates on the ICC will be changed up or down depending on how many people are using it, in order to maximize revenue and divert as many motorists as possible off surrounding streets.  We won’t really know the real impact until the whole facility is open, of course.

Though some continue to whine about the fact that there are tolls, I continue to see very little in the way of honesty or ownership regarding whose fault that really is.  Some of the blame clearly lies at the feet of those who blocked the road for so many years — and the politicians who dared not cross them — despite the lack of any viable alternative.  Had the ICC had been built when it was planned (around 1980), it would have saved Maryland taxpayers around $2 billion and would not have required ANY tolls.  The big lesson here:  Delay is expensive.  Now we have to pay for it.