MARYLAND:E-ZPass Spreads South
By Peter Samuel
These are three of seven toll facilities of the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA), the states toll agency. The electronic tolling is being installed by Lockheed Martin under a $22m contract. As a member of the Inter-Agency Group Maryland is using Mark IV readers and issuing Mark IV transponders, but the tags will not be immediately interoperable with technically identical tags and reader equipment in use in Delaware and NY to the north and in VA to the south. The M-TAG logo indicates that Maryland has a separate system for billing purposes.
Spokesman Lori Vidil says that the MDTA wants to get the system up and running and a decent number of tags in use. It will then turn to the issue of interoperability with E-ZPass tags and facilities to the north. When the arrangements have been made to honor one anothers tags small E-ZPass logos will be superimposed on the M-TAG logo indicating to motorists from north of the Mason-Dixon line that their tags are usable on the MD system. But for now they will not be recognized as valid tags.
The same goes for tags from across the Potomac River. Virginia has been running Mark IV e-toll equipment for several years on the Dulles Toll Road and on the Dulles Greenway, under the brand name SmartTag, and it is currently being installed on the two toll systems in Richmond VA. There are no moves yet to make VA-MD interoperable.
In Baltimore the 2.5km McHenry Tunnel is 8-lanes wide (4 tubes of 2-lanes each) and carries approx 100,000 vehicles/day. The older 4-lane Harbor Tunnel carries 55k v/d and the I-695 bridge 25k v/d. Also to be converted to e-tolling but later this year will be I-95 (formally the J F Kennedy Memorial Hwy) at the 12-north bound toll lanes at the I-95 toll plaza near the Delaware border (70k v/d). At a later date the MDTA plans to take e-tolls onto the Chesapeake Bay bridge a 55k veh/day 7km long 5-lane dual suspension bridge near Annapolis that is the major link for vacationers from the Washington and Baltimore metro area to the eastern shore peninsula of Maryland and the Atlantic Ocean coast. The Bay bridge has 11 toll lanes and tolls east only. Small toll bridges over the lower Potomac on US-301 the Nice (Newburg MD to Dahlgren VA, 14k v/d) and the US-40 bridge over the Susquehana River at Havre de Grace, the Hatem (22k v/d) will probably get e-toll equipment last.
The two tunnels and the Bay bridge are soon to be the subject of a variable pricing study, along with the Beltway (I-495), I-270 and MD-210. (see TRnl#35 Jan 99 p14)
The Baltimore job has been one of many e-toll conversions that have stretched way over contract time. When the contract was awarded in Nov 96, it was said that the system would be operational by the end of 97. It has been 30 months compared to 14 months. (TRnl#10 Dec 96 p5) The contract provides for Lockheed to establish and operate for 3 years a customer service center to issue e-tags to motorists. Tags are now being sold. (Contact Lori Vidil MdTA 410 288 8407)