Maryland Transp Authority
By Peter Samuel
Officials of the Maryland Transp Authority (MDTA) are wondering whether its wise to introduce electronic tolling on the Chesapeake Bay bridge. They have five years of painting, and four years of redecking ahead.
Were not sure it makes sense to speed people through the toll plaza if our work program on the bridge means there are lane closures and other construction related sources of congestion, says Lori Vidil, MDTA spokesman. Triborough B&T in New York City made the mistake of increasing their cash toll to an awkward amount ($3.50) at the same time they were introducing ET. The result backups caused by slower cash toll transactions got blamed on ET.
The MDTA has negotiated with Lockheed an extension of their contract to put electronic tolling into the Kennedy toll plaza on I-95 up toward the Delaware line. ET has been operating on the three Baltimore Harbor crossings the Fort McHenry and Harbor Tunnels and the Francis Scott Key Bridge since April 1999. 51k tags are in motorist windshields and 16% of transactions overall are now electronic at these three facilities. It is 25% weekdays.
MDTA has long had a commuter plan with tickets, 50 tickets at $20 the book being valid for 60 days, turning what is normally a cash toll of $1 into 40c rides if all the tickets are used. ET will get a big boost when tickets are withdrawn and commuters can only get the deep discount by establishing an ET account. That cant be done until the Kennedy plaza goes electronic hecause the tickets are still needed there. The Kennedy plaza ET hardware is installed and the systems are being tested this spring with a startup likely early summer.
MDTA has yet to extend ET to commercial vehicles or to make its system called M-Tag interoperable with E-ZPass. It is a member of the E-ZPass Inter-Agency Group (IAG) and is committed to reciprocity. It hopes to be accepting E-ZPass tags and allowing M-Tag users to pay tolls electronically elsewhere by the end of the year.