Discover more from The Duckpin
Higher Tolls Are Coming
Democrats have made it clear that they are going to go through herculean efforts to raise taxes, fees, and tolls in the 2024 Legislative Session.
Let us take you back to February, when Mark Uncapher wrote about Delegate Mark Korman’s toll proposal:
Maryland House Democratic Majority Leader Marc Korman has proposed legislation leading to nearly a 50% toll increase on the state’s highways. His legislation would impose a so-called “optimal tolling strategy” that involves setting tolls at—or near— the highest level at which the state could maximize revenue. According to Korman’s own testimony, an extra $250 to $300 million could be wrung from drivers by “optimal tolling” of Maryland’s existing toll facilities.
The current tolling revenues of over $600 million indicate up to a 50% increase. As a result, the “maximized” toll rates would likely increase the Bay Bridge EZ pass toll to $3.75 and the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel to $4.50.
Maryland’s Transportation Revenue and Infrastructure Needs Commission is currently considering proposals to raise tolls as well, as Bryan Sears reports. Unilateral toll increases were already under consideration by the Maryland Transportation Authority, who operates Maryland’s toll facilities:
The panel will also consider a recommendation to increase tolls at the state’s nine toll facilities.
In September, Joseph Sagal, then the director of the Maryland Transportation Authority, said the agency that manages the toll facilities was already contemplating increases…..
….At least two options for toll increases have emerged. The first is a flat increase on all vehicles. Another option is a tiered model where out-of-state drivers may pay more.
The commission was briefed by legislative analysts on the possible effects of a flat rate increase.
Under one scenario, the state could increase revenue by more than $81.4 million by increasing tolls by 50 cents on all vehicles. Revenue would increase by nearly $89 million if the state increased tolls by 25 cents per axel, according to analysts.
Roughly one-third of the 162.8 million transactions at state toll facilities involved out-of-state vehicles.
Imposing a flat 50-cent increase on those vehicles would increase toll revenues by more than $26.7 million. A 25-cent-per-axel increase would boost state toll revenues by nearly $31.6 million on those same vehicles, according to the analysts’ projections.
The out-of-state fee is a non-starter since it has already been declared unconstitutional in federal court. But a toll increase is almost certainly coming even though raising such a fee is unnecessary.
Republican State Senator Steve Hershey was the only voice of reason in the room yesterday:
“So, we’ve reached the bad ideas category of this,” said Hershey, adding that the commission should also reconsider farebox collections on mass transit.
“Before we start looking at raising the gas tax, before we start looking at raising tolls, I think that needs to be on the table,” he said.
Maryland’s farebox recovery rates are unsustainable and it’s an issue I’ve been raising for over a decade. The Transportation Authority seems even less interested in addressing this now than it did in 2013.
What is clear, however, from the TRAIN Commission is that Democrats plan on repurposing some of the new toll revenues from a toll increase to use on trains and other transportation modes outside of the toll facilities. The entire point of having tolls was to ensure that the tolled highways remain self-sustaining without additional contributions from the gas tax. Redirecting toll dollars away from the toll facilities will negatively impact toll facility users who have to deal with shoddier infrastructure.
This of course incentivizes toll facility users to not use toll facilities and find a different way, which would further decrease revenue. The entire structure of toll facilities would crumble were for toll revenue to be redirected away from the toll facilities, increase or not.
What the TRAIN Commission does make abundantly clear, however, is that Democrats are going to go through herculean efforts to raise taxes, fees, and tolls in the 2024 Legislative Session. All of the progress of the Hogan Administration on keeping tolls and taxes low will be wiped out just like that.1
As always, taxpayers will be the ones who have to pay for Democratic grandiosity. And the never-ending cycle of inflicting pain on the taxpayer will march on….
This is Dan Cox’s legacy