Bill seeks study of Bay Bridge an­nual pass

Record Observer - - News - By JACK SHAUM jshaum@kibay­times.com

AN­NAPO­LIS — Leg­is­la­tion has passed the Mary­land State Se­nate call­ing for a study by the Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity of the fea­si­bil­ity of a flat-fee an­nual pass for cross­ing the Wil­liam Pre­ston Lane Jr. Me­mo­rial Bridge and other toll fa­cil­i­ties across the state.

SB 416, co-spon­sored by Sen. Steve Her­shey, R36-Up­per Shore, was ap­proved by the Se­nate on a vote of 47-0 and sent on to the House En­vi­ron­ment and Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee, which held a hear­ing on it on March 24. As of Tues­day, March 29, the com­mit­tee had not yet voted on the bill.

“There would be one pay­ment that would al­low un­lim­ited use for the en­tire year,” Her­shey said in an in­ter­view. “We didn’t spec­ify in the bill what the pay­ment would be, but we did sug­gest that it should be based off of, at the very least, the com­muter rate, and then we were hop­ing for some type of a dis­count.”

Her­shey be­lieves that both users of an an­nual pass and the state would ben­e­fit, with the con­sumer know­ing they would only have to pay one price with­out any other charges, and the state know­ing it would have spec­i­fied in­come from the pass pro­gram.

Like E-ZPass, mo­torists who would have an an­nual pass would be able to pass through the toll plaza with­out stop­ping. Her­shey said such a sys­tem has been in use at the Hatem Bridge over the Susque­hanna River for some time and is work­ing well.

“We be­lieve there would be some econ­omy of scale or some sav­ings if this were done, and the MdTA wouldn’t have to con­tinue to in­voice peo­ple. It would be one in­voice in­stead of 12 in­voices,” Her­shey said.

Ac­cord­ing to the leg­is­la­tion, the study would look at the cost ben­e­fit analy- sis, and would re­quire the MdTA to “sub­mit a re­port of its find­ings and re­com- men­da­tions from the study to cer­tain com­mit­tees of the General Assem­bly” on or be­fore Dec. 1, 2016.

In its orig­i­nal form, the bill would have re­quired the MdTA to es­tab­lish an an­nual pass op­tion, but as it made its way through the Se­nate Finance Com­mit­tee, it was amended, and the re­quire­ment to es­tab­lish the op­tion was changed to a study of such an op­tion, ac­cord­ing to Her­shey.

The pri­mary spon­sor of the bill is Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, R-6-Bal­ti­more County, and there are 19 co-spon­sors.

“Hope­fully, we can find a good price that will make this at­trac­tive to users of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Bridge,” Her­shey said.

BY JACK SHAUM

Traf­fic passes through the Bay Bridge toll plaza headed for the East­ern Shore. Leg­is­la­tion seeks a study of the fea­si­bil­ity of an­nual passes for users of the bridge.

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