Delegate Steve Hershey (R-36-Queen Anne’s) isn’t waiting for the public hearings to come to his district before expressing his opposition with proposed toll increases. The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA), which on June 2nd released a proposal to increase tolls at seven of its eight managed facilities across Maryland, is holding public hearings throughout the State to receive public and private testimony on its proposed plan.
Last Thursday evening the MDTA held its first of nine public hearings which took place at the foot of the Inter-county Connector (ICC) in Montgomery County. Delegate Steve Hershey, was the first person to testify before the MDTA panel comprising of the Secretary of MDOT and only four of the eight MDTA Board Members. “I think it’s a shame that only half the board showed up to hear from the people of Maryland about toll hikes that are increasing more than 200%.”
Delegate Hershey testified that the toll hikes place an undo hardship on over 60% of the workforce that must commute across the Bay Bridge each day and adversely effects the cost of goods sold for many business that receive products and materials from the Western Shore. Hershey told the panel, “The increase in the commuter toll rate from $1.00 to $2.80 will cost each working family an additional $900 each year”.
Hershey continued that the 220% increase in the daily rate from $2.50 to $8.00 would “devastate our seasonal and eco-tourism economies”, deprive many Marylanders the opportunities to enjoy the cultural and environmental resources found only on the Eastern Shore and reduce the frequency of gatherings of families and friends which live on opposite shores of the bay.
The Montgomery County public hearing was sparsely attended, mainly because the toll on the new ICC was the only toll of the eight MDTA managed facilities to not be affected by the proposed toll increases. Delegate Hershey was one of two legislators to attend the MDTA’s first public hearing. The other Delegate Charles E. Barkley (D-39-Montgomery) testified he was willing to accept the first level of increases, but thought the second level due in 2013 was “just too much”.
Delegate Hershey finished his testimony by stating, “The Bay Bridge is not a road of convenience like the ICC, residents of the Eastern Shore have no other options. It is a necessity…it is our lifeline. Please reconsider.”
The MDTA will continue its public hearings this week in Baltimore and Prince George’s County. The only two public hearings on the Eastern Shore will be at Kent Island High School on June 15 and Perryville High School on June 16.