“Hatem Bridge is O’Malley’s Berlin Wall” and Other Angry Utterances from Havre de Grace Toll Hearing

Not to be outdone their counterparts on the Cecil County side of the Susquehanna River two weeks ago, hundreds of Harford County residents flooded the Havre de Grace Activity Center Monday night in opposition to a proposed hike in tolls on the state Route 40 Hatem Bridge.

Crowds in the community center were estimated at around 800 people, slightly less than the 1,000 who turned out at the previous meeting in Perryville. On her personal website, Sen. Nancy Jacobs asserted that “More than 2,000 people filled two large rooms at the HDG Community Center to voice their opinions concerning the Hatem Bridge.”

As at the Cecil County meeting, a number of protestors held signs outside the building, bearing messages such as “The high tolls are going to destroy our community” and “Hatem Bridge is O’Malley’s Berlin Wall.”

Boos rained down as the Maryland Transportation Authority showed a short informational film, and after announcements of changes that attendees found displeasing. Crowd members loudly booed or yelled their grievances, while others yelled “extortion!”

Beverley Swaim-Staley, secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, has attended the majority of the hearings and said the MdTA was “hearing a lot from recreational people who are towing campers or boats,” suggesting that the toll price for recreational vehicles may be changed.

Under the current proposal, outlined on Transportation Authority handouts, phase one of the proposed toll increase calls for the Hatem Bridge toll to increase to $6 from $5 by October 1. The current annual decal program will be discontinued and changed over to the E-ZPass program. As a result, the annual fee to cross the bridge will increase to $36 to $10.

Effective July 1, 2013, the toll will increase to $72 from $36, MdTA officials said.

The possible discontinuation of the AVI decals drew the most criticism, with some 89 percent of Hatem Bridge travellers said to use the decals. MdTA posters displayed at the hearing likened AVI decals to Ataris and the E-ZPass to Xbox 360s in terms of how they compared technologically.

“[The AVI decal] is a 1970’s toll collection technology…at this point [the Hatem Bridge] is the only facility in Maryland that has that type of toll collection,” an MdTA representative said. “Right now we’re operating with multiple toll collection systems…so you have the latest toll technology paired up with 1970’s technology.”

The representative said that MdTA is having an increasingly difficult time repairing the AVI system as it’s parts become outdated.

Opponents of the toll hike also worried that the profits from the increased toll would go to fund the state’s Intercounty Connector—which upon completion will connect Montgomery County and Prince George’s County—rather than helping improve Cecil and Harford County specifically.

“The ICC was built for [Montgomery County] for convenience, the Hatem bridge was built for us out of necessity,” Sen. Jacobs said.

Perhaps the most sympathetic testimonial given came from Karen Green, who described herself as “bi-county,” living in between Harford and Cecil county, and who suffers from terminal kidney disease and must go over the Hatem bridge several times a week to visit her hospital to undergo dialysis.

“I spend 12 hours a week in dialysis…without treatment, which I must go to three times a week, I will die,” Green said. “Because I do live in Port Deposit, [avoiding the bridge by going over] the dam isn’t always an option…because [when it rains] 222 would be flooded. This toll kills me, literally, because I will not be able to afford the transportation.”

“When you’re looking at this toll, see my face,” Green said. “I don’t know how much longer it will be here, but I’d like it to be as long as possible.”

The evening was not all just testimonials.

While most representatives of the community refused any sort of compromise, Del. David Rudolph proposed an alternative plan, which included the following points:

1. The establishment of a resident toll plan on the I-95 bridge which would allow residents of Maryland to pay a $10 annual fee to drive the Maryland portion of the I-95 corridor with unlimited access. Rudolph noted that, in the Cecil county meeting , “the only people in the state of Maryland who have to pay to use I-95 [in their counties] are the good citizens of Cecil County…citizens of Maryland should be treated equally and right now we’re not being treated equally.”

2. The proposed toll increase for Hatem Bridge is “unacceptable,” and Rudolph the MdTA “should keep our $10 toll for Maryland residents and initiate out of state tolls for those using AVI decals” that live out of state. Rudolph cited precedence in Federal courts, which he said “have ruled that you can have in-state rates.” Rudolph wants out of state rates to go to $40, citing a Rhode Island case, Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority v. Isabel Cohen, which found that a rate lopsided toward the benefit of in-state users was acceptable.

3. The removal of the AVI Decal on safety grounds, as “employees were [forced] to jump from lane to lane [in order to handle] expired AVI decals…I believe it’s fair to these people that they should not be jumping.”

A more detailed look at his proposal can be found at his website: http://www.drudolph.org/

More information on the toll price changes can be found at mdta.maryland.gov.

Tune into WAMD 970 AM Tuesday after 3 p.m. to hear audio and Jeff Jarina’s recap from Monday night’s toll hearing.

Photos courtesy of www.HatemTolls.com.


  1. Fed-Up says

    Congratulations all. You showed up and spoke your mind. The numbers were a bit lower that we anticipated, but still a stong showing non-the-less.

    We should hope for the best, and hope that our delegates, congressmen, and senators will continue to advocate on this toll increase and the demograghic most impacted. On that note, Delegate Rudolph, could you pleas upland your new proposal so we can view it.


  2. Out of my Mind says


    Personally, I’d love to see some transparency on the issue. Tell us where the money is going. I’d rather see facts [from the Government] than libel and rumors. Give us hard numbers [of where the toll money is going] in easily digestible bits. I might be able to have a better opinion after that.

  3. Rob in Bel Air says

    O’Malley has beeb sticking it to Maryland taxpayers since he entered the Governor’s office. Yet Marylander’s still voted him and his kind back into office. He will continue to stick it to us from Annapolis and eventually Washington.

    Yep, the majority of Maryland voters will vote for him again when he moves into the senate seat.

    I like the sign: “Tolls, taxes, and illegals . . .” that saids it all. Did anyone here vote for O’Malley, who will admit it, and explain it?

    • monster says

      Rob, you said it the way I see it also. Harford County did not vote for O’Malley, and he and those Democrats in Annapolis try to screw Harford and Cecil Counties every chance they get.

    • Brint says

      Perhaps Rob in Bel Air doesn’t realize that the political system works exactly as it’s supposed to. Folks elected the Governor, our Senators, and our Representative, because they liked them more than their respective oppositions.

      • Concerned Teacher says

        *WE* did not vote for O’Malley. People in PG County, Montgomery County, Howard County, Charles County, and Baltimore City voted for him. He lost ever other jurisdiction. In fact, voters in Harford and Cecil counties voted for Ehrlich nearly 2-1.

        If this toll increase affected people in those areas, it wouldn’t happen. The tolls at the McHenry Tunnel, Harbor Tunnel, and Key Bridge don’t affect them; they affect primarily commuters from Baltimore and Harford counties and interstate travellers who have little choice but to use them.

        • Cdev says

          Yes but the MAJORITY of Marylanders voted for O’Malley I didn’t vote for him but he was elected to the office and is the legitimate governor.

  4. Displaced Philadelphian says

    Love that they blame this on the technology. I don’t recall a single time where my decal failed to register when going through the Hatem toll plaza. It’s hit or miss with my EZ-Pass at the Baltimore tunnels when going to/from work. When it fails to register me, someone (who obviously is just doing a rush job) looks up the camera photo and charges me the full $2 instead of the .40 since I’m on the commuter plan. Then I get to pay a visit to the EZ-Pass customer service counter at the tunnels and have to ask for my money back and hope they’ll give it to me (if I’m not checking statements closely, I can exceed their window for reimbursement). And who knows what we pay for the pleasure of EZ-Pass itself versus our quaint little AVI system. EZ-Pass comes with its very own billing and “customer service” centers, not to mention additional fees we pay just for having the EZ-Pass (I believe it’s something like $1.50/month/transponder, “deposits” for the transponders, etc.). Their little “fees” just keep adding up.

    Incredible. Harford really is turning into a little Berlin all its own…blocked in with tolls on every side. Soon we’ll be placing EZ-Pass sensors on the dam….then it’ll be on to 40 at the Delaware state line…we don’t want to miss all that juicy revenue from all the cars skirting around the Newark toll plaza. Maybe they should throw up tolls getting on and off I-95 at 24 so I can pay extra for that project, too. It’s bad enough the taxpayers are paying out the nose for the express lanes on 95 from 695 to the split which are – you guessed it – EZ-Pass only! No thanks, Maryland. I’ll chug along in the morning gridlock. Get it together, Maryland. $2.5 BILLION for that ICC and Harford and Cecil are left in the lurch.

    Thanks to all that showed up for the meetings…sorry schedule couldn’t allow me to be there, but I totally am against this and support you all. Thanks also to Sen. Jacobs – she’s a tough cookie! Your efforts are appreciated.

    Next big moneymaker for the highways should be slots and table gaming at the Chesapeake and Maryland House. Think about it…a Roy Rogers AND video blackjack. Does it get any better?

    • says

      There was a time when there was a toll to use 95. 50 cent to get on and to get off. There was a little basket to throw your money in. But don’t tell MdTA they will want to bring it back.

  5. noble says

    The conclusion I came to after listening to hours of testimony is that no reasonable group of human beings could sit through that and come to the conclusion that they should make no changes to the proposed toll plan.

    If they don’t make any changes at all, it will be confirmation that the decision had already been made, that marching orders had indeed come from on high, and that it is indeed to the disregard, possibly disdain, for a constituency that is not in the majority, and born from a financial necessity brought about by the ICC and the Express lanes.

    The video is very informational. I was in disbelief as it had the nerve to state that the I95 Express lanes in Baltimore County were “essential.” That proves right there that the MDTA has absolutely no idea what is essential and what is not. Clearly the Hatem is essential for two Counties. The express lanes might be essential for Audi and BMW’s drivers to get from their McMansion to their job at Constellation Energy, but not for the rest of us.

    It is also informational that the video, nor any of the information they hand out indicates that they sought to make any reductions in expenses before deciding to raise tolls.

    And in fact, as pointed out at the hearing, they can’t even produce any methodology or documentation that describes how they arrived at the decision to raise tolls.

  6. Otto Schmidlap says

    It’s known as redistribution of wealth, folks. Our dollars going to Funkytown, a large portion of which is populated by human debris, to keep ’em voting Democrat. That’ll teach us to vote Republican! Nothing worse than a progressive in a second term.

    • monster says

      Otto, I agree with you. It’s slimy partisan politics as much as it is money.

    • Brint says

      By “human debris” I assume that Otto means human beings? I wonder if we can’t have public discussion that’s less crude and more respectful of all people.

  7. Fed-Up says

    The evening highlights:

    1. Relationship between John Hatem’s legacy of community building and its stark contrast to the toll increase.
    2. Disproportionately charging our communities for road construction~ Gross Median Income of Cecil and Harford Citizens is half of Gross Median Income of Prince Georges and Montgomery Citizens where construction is taken place.
    3. Impact of expenses on local businesses. Cost for trucking stone, mulch, concrete, etc will increase to $5000 when business previously paid $80.
    4. Stressing that the Route 40 Bridge is not an interstate like the remaining tolls.
    5. Addressing the limited resources of Cecil County: No Mall, Movies, and Limited Grocery Stores.
    6. Identifying loss of revenue from Hollywood Casinos once the toll rises.
    7. Limited access to Perry Point with increased tolls.
    8. Blow of increased prices on seniors with fixed incomes.
    9. Pointing out that the literature distributed by the state does not justify the increase in tolls.
    10. Understating revenues for Hatem Bridge ~Decals were provided for free and large trucks were denied access during construction

    What do we do now?

    1. Write to the Governor
    2. Provide testimonial to MdTA
    3. Thank the Senators, Congressmen, Delegates and Council Members for their support and ask for continued advocacy

    @ Out of my Mind, appreciate your pointing out my mid-night spelling mistakes.

  8. HYDESMANN says

    Did anyone doubt that O’Malley & his cronies in the general assembly would raise taxes and fees if elected? I thought a fee was a tax. Does anyone remember a few years ago when the Transpoptation Authority rebuilt all the toll booths on southbound I-95 @ the Susquhana and a few years after that tore them all down? And now they want to increase tolls. I say NO. If our politicans can find millions for illegals (oops I mean NEW AMERICANS) and billions for the ICC and tax breaks for every developer in MD then they can find money to keep the infastructure sound.

    • Brint says

      The “billions for the ICC” that Hydesmann mentioned are, in fact, to be paid for by user tolls. There ya go!

      • amazed says

        The website for the ICC states that tolls will be used to control congestion. At the rates they’re proposing, they won’t pay for the ICC any time soon and from what folks are saying there is very little traffic on it. It’s a very informative site, I recommend it.

  9. Doug104 says

    Good points Noble. I have also been wondering where the cost cutting moves are. If they have made any at all it sure doesnt show.
    Here is a few:
    Take down the overhead electronic traffic signs. They offer no useful information. (695- 7 miles, 7 minutes) When they do warn of a backup, they are more likely to CAUSE, or worsen a backup, than to relive it.

    Shut down the MTA police. Hire a few more state police to cover those roads. All I see them do is write speeding tickets and sit on the side of the road, in VERY expensive top of the line “stealth” cars. (mustangs, magnums, etc) We don’t need an independent, redundant police force for a bridge.

    Immediately stop the free rides across the Susquehanna and Bay Bridge. Why are we still doing one way tolls? Its an obsolete idea. I don’t see anywhere that this has been discussed.

    I agree, tolls should be raised, incrementally. I can barely remember the last toll hike, so it is reasonable. But I am talking about REASONABLE hikes.

    PS. Is 72 bucks a year to cross a bridge an unlimited amount of times a problem? really?

    PSS. It was Ehrlich (R) that backed and funded the ICC and the express toll lanes.

    • Fed-Up says

      @Doug. For me $72 is noting. It is a steal, I agree. But for some, it is too much to bare on already strained budgets. Folks are upset because our family proverty levels exceed that of Montgomery County, and our median income is $27, 000 less too. It is unfortuate for these improvished folks, that public transportation is not available like in Montgomery County. The people that are complaining, are truly poor, and I have compassion for them. They need an alternative plan.

    • Realitycheck says

      In response to some previous comments:

      1. The overhead electronic traffic signs are more useful than you think.

      2. MTA and MSP may eventually be merged. At this time, there is some redundancy on highway coverage, which taxpayers should express their views about to elected officials.

      3. With respect to one-way tolls, many states and cities only collect tolls in one direction. This reduces traffic back up. It is not an obsolete idea. This is SOP on the Del Memorial Bridge, and on all the NYC area bridges and tunnels. There are still too many morons out there who wont get ez passes.

      4. Tolls will be raised no matter what community activists say. There should be in-state residents discount plans. They do that with tuition for colleges, so what’s the big deal about granting in-state EZ pass owners a discount? The antiquated technology method of a sticker is all but extinct. People need to start using EZ pass.

      Summary: People should use EZ pass and demand an in-state resident discount. Very simple computer programming. Those who don’t get an EZ pass, lose out on discounts. I replenish my EZ pass only when I have a low balance. You don’t have to give them a credit card # to store on file. Unless you are committing crimes and driving your car through EZ pass readers, no one tracks your movements, so get over it.

      • noble says

        So a person who live in Cecil County and has lost their job and doesn’t hardly have money to put food on the table should shell out either $90 for an EZ Pass so they can go to interviews in Aberdeen (the nearest largest employment center), or shell out $8 for every interview?

        Everyone in the world is not like you, and you need to tune into that.

        There are places in Cecil County where you have no internet access other than dialup.

      • amazed says

        @Realitycheck: The real problem is that the MTA needs money and the only solution they can come up with is to multiply the commuter rate by 9 initially(these people could never survive in the private sector). They need money for nice new projects for rich counties around DC and Baltimore, you know, where they vote Democrat? I doubt that anyone that commutes across the bridge (which officials had promised would be free when it was paid for) would quarrel with paying the costs to maintain the structure – what rankles is the heavy handed manner MTA is using to raise money for projects many Cecil county residents will never see. They say there are 150,000 decals. Let’s assume 100,000 get EZ-Pass. That’s $8.2 million initially (the top dogs have probably already spent their bonuses) not counting the bogus “administrative” fee they dreamed up years after the system was started. From ’13 on it’ll be $9 million until the next increase. Do they really need $9 million to maintain the Hatem Bridge? People who aren’t affected seem to think its ok to have a select group of Maryland residents bear an unfair share of the MTA’s “obligations”. What portion will Allegheny county residents be paying? I always chuckle when people say barcodes are “antiquated”. Yes, they’re so hard to find these days. Most of the folks using AVI like it and there are rarely any backups (except the beginning of the month).

      • amazed says

        @Realitycheck: Oh, by the way, I also have an EZ-Pass for one vehicle to use when we travel and I also didn’t sign up for automated payments. I, like you, pay when the balance is low. However, when the expiration date was approaching on the card I use, their system started squawking about it – because they stored the card information anyway without my permission.

      • Pavel314 says

        I had an EZ Pass for a while but used it very infrequently, on my annual trip to Boston and an occasional ski trip to PA. When the put on that $1.50 per month handling charge, I dropped it. Just another way to squeeze more money out of the populace. How is is costing the state anyting for me to have an EZ Pass. And why would I pay $18 per year to avoid 10-15 minutes in a toll line?

        • amazed says

          @Pavel314, I’m with you. This is actually the single biggest problem I have with EZ-Pass. The “administrative” charge wasn’t there when I signed up and coming from an IT background I can assure there are NO “administrative” costs. They enter your personal info with the transponder number into a database and the “hands-on” portion is done. All they have to do then is keep the servers up and connected to each other. There is very little difference between EZ-Pass and any keycard entry system that any trained monkey can operate (I know, because I’m trained). Billing and notices from the system are automatic. It’s completely bogus and probably goes to management bonuses and to cover free EZ-Pass for their employees.

  10. Posthaus says

    About the last part of Rudolph’s statement ..is that not more of an indictment of how sadly out of date MD toll facilities are in general?

  11. Louie DePalma says

    Fact: Employees of MdTA get free EZ Passes. Now this is supposed to be used only to access their place of employment, but who monitors that boondoggle.
    How many MdTA Police Officers have take home cars that allow free transport to and from work but free toll access. Now not all MdTA Police have cars but quite a few Commanders of some level. But surrounding counties have narrowed the use of take home vehicles time for the MdTA to follow.

    • monster says

      I agree. This state has been raided and plundered by the Annapolis Democrats. Had we had slots when Ehrlich wanted them, we would be making a lot more money. The Democrats wouldn’t allow him to do this, and so the racing industry in Maryland is in trouble, and surrounding states are way ahead of our slots program. We could write volumes on how the Democrats made sure not to allow Ehrlich to do anything that might give him credit. In the meantime, Democrat politics require that they spend and not cut. We need to clean out Washington and Annapolis and send the spenders home. You and I know that when O’Malley leaves the State House, he will be going for U.S. Senator. That is just what we need, more spenders in Washington. Unfortunately, in Maryland one only needs P.G., Montgomery, Baltimore City, and maybe a little of Baltimore County.

  12. Kate says

    Where was Mary Dulaney James? Wasn’t she on Transportation Committee for state? I have heard her say that she has gotten money for road improvements. Where has she been and why isn’t she trying to help her people?

  13. Darlington Bob says

    What annoys me is that Senator Jacobs is exploiting this whole issue for her personal use. Have you seen the pictures on the facebook page, “No Higher Tolls on Hatem Bridge?” Every other picture is of her! Personally, it looks more like a reelection bid for Nancy rather than Cecil and Harford Countians coming together to protest higher tolls.

    Politicians, do us all a favor and stop exploiting the issue for your political gains. This is about stopping higher tolls, not you!

    • Suzanne Collins says

      I am Senator Jacobs Chief of Staff. That honestly couldn’t be further from the truth. She has worked day and night communicate with the MdTA, to get accurate information out to people, to write editorials to make the public aware of her constituents plight and to testify and organize people so we had big turnout. You have read this entirely wrong. If there are more pictures of her it’s because I picked them and she had nothing to do with it. She is on vacation in Ocean City Md and drove back to testify in Havre de Grace during what should be her family time. Don’t be so cynical.

    • Rob in Bel Air, says


      Darlington Bob is obviously a dumocrat (I mean democrat) to say something so goofy. Tell Nancy to keep up the good work. Her presence in Annapolis annoys O’Malley and the rest of his thug buddies. Too bad we can’t rid Annapolis and this state of tax and spend liberals. The state is too infested with them.

      • Brint says

        I wonder about the intelligence of people who, when at a loss for something to say, resort to simple name-calling. Surely we’re better than that!

  14. Coledata says

    2 days ago in the United Kingdom a new stretch of freeway opened at a cost of $87 million per mile. The ICC, which is the primary cost the MdTA is seeking to recover, cost $228 million per mile.

    When it comes to fiscal responsibility, I don’t see the board of the MdTA, who are demanding these un-democratic and extortionate tolls, show too much fiscal responsibility.

    That lack of responsibility is also demonstrated by the sheer number of personnel and equipment that have carted around to the various dog and pony shows like the one last night.

    I have absolutely no faith that they are going to take ANY notice of what they have been told.

    It is time for our state government to start listening to the people, and acknowledging that most residents have no more available cash – various government entities already taxed it all.

    The real problem is differentiating between commuters and out of state visitors. Currently, MD (compared to other toll states) is extremely reasonable. The numbers below assume a northbound journey (MD only collects tolls in one direction at the bridges) for a single passenger car, paying cash:

    NJ Turnpike: $9.05 max, 113 miles, $0.08 per mile
    PA Turnpike: $28.00 for 358 miles, $0.08 per mile
    DE Turnpike: $4.00 for 11.2 miles, $0.36 per mile
    MD Currently: $7.00 for 109 miles, $0.06 per mile
    MD proposed: $12.00 for 109 miles, $0.11 per mile

    Residents of Harford and Cecil counties are the worst hit by these hikes; A Harford resident gets nailed for a toll if he wants to enter another county.

    A Cecil resident is absolutely ostracized from the rest of the state without facing a toll (or making a lengthy diversion down Route 1) and the current infrastructure of Cecil means that most residents find it necessary to visit Harford County on a regular basis.

    One of the primary reasons that the Cecil County infrastructure has not developed in line with Harford County is the very fact that the tolls across the two bridges create a perceived barrier. With easy access to I95, there is no reason why the county should not have burgeoned in a fashion similar to Harford County. When I opened a business in Maryland back in the 1980’s, my primary requirement was that it be located adjacent to I95. Unfortunately, I ruled out Cecil County purely because, although it would have initially been considerably cheaper to develop there, I could see the impact the tolls were likely to have on my customers, my staff, and consequently my business. Consequently, I paid an extra $100,000 to locate in Harford County.

    Personally, I feel that residents and employees of Harford and Cecil counties, transit across either of the bridges should be FREE, thereby joining two communities currently divided by the MdTA.

    On Hatem bridge, the MdTA offer as a reason for forcing everyone to the EZ-Pass system the fact that the AVI system is out of date, and difficult to maintain. This is absolute rubbish; it is only an extremely simple bar code system; the harder part is making it function with the EZ-Pass system. I supply bar code scanners, I know what they cost, and I know how they operate. They are much more reliable than the EZ-Pass transponder system, which uses radio waves.

    One interesting fact about EZ-Pass transponders – it is a total monopoly; there is only one manufacturer, Kapsch TrafficCom, based in Austria, who reported a net profit of €159 million ($227 million) in their last annual report.

    • Brint says

      So if the bridge were free, as you suggest, how would maintenance, repair, and upkeep be funded?

      • amazed says

        @Brint, I have no problem with the current system, or with an increase if it is needed to maintain the Hatem Bridge. As for your question, I’m sure the out of state traffic on 95 alone would be more than sufficient to maintain both bridges if it weren’t being used as an ATM for projects that benefit seemingly everyone BUT Cecil county residents.

  15. noble says

    You know it’s also interesting to note that even when completed, at 21 miles in length, the toll for the ICC at the PEAK travel period, will top out around $5 or $6.

    For 21 miles of roadway.

    That’s brand new.

    And “essential” for local residents.

    Compared to $8 for the Hatem bridge, which is at most 1.5 miles long.

    The median income for Montgomery county is around $85k a year, while Cecil is $65k.

    Somebody at the MTDA want to explain that? I doubt they can.

    • Brint says

      It’s actually rather simple. The ICC is a road. When it falls apart, it merely becomes more bumpy. When a bridge falls apart, it falls into the river, perhaps with occupied cars traveling across it. It’s easy to pave a road. It’s more costly to hang from scaffolding to weld and paint a bridge. And it’s more essential.

      • amazed says

        @Brint, You would be absolutely correct… IF the money collected were used to maintain the structure they’re collecting it on. The Hatem bridge has been paid for many times over by generations of Harford and Cecil county residents for over 70 years.

  16. Brint says

    It’s time for a little sanity in the toll discussion.

    1. After the toll facility construction has been paid for, tolls pay for maintenance and upkeep. Without maintenance, bridges and tunnels deteriorate and become unsafe to use.

    2. Rightly or wrongly, Maryland operates its toll facilities as a single enterprise. Tolls go into the account and maintenance and bond service are paid from the account. So it’s difficult for me to feel sorry for the Hatem bridge user who has been paying about 5 cents per crossing, where the best discount on the Baltimore harbor crossings is about 40 cents. This sounds like a subsidy, and many contributors to this blog sound like folks who don’t like subsidies.

    3. Anyone who doesn’t believe that I-95 needs additional lanes hasn’t commuted on that road in the past 10 years. Adding more free lanes would require more money from the road budget which is funded by things like gas taxes. Harford countians have come to prefer “user fees” paid by folks who benefit from projects over “taxes” paid by folks who may never benefit from the project. So, building two additional lanes that are funded solely by the people who drive on them is a win-win.

    I have driven in many (but not all) states, including a number of very heavily populated areas. For my money, Maryland’s roads are among the most well maintained and best signed in the nation.

    As a footnote, to those who call the Governor names (instead of engaging in rational discourse) because of the toll facilities issue, I remind you that Governor Ehrlich was a staunch supporter of the toll road known as the InterCountyConnector. And the per-mile toll on that road will probably be the highest in MD.

    • noble says

      I’d like to respond to a few of your points:

      “So it’s difficult for me to feel sorry for the Hatem bridge user who has been paying about 5 cents per crossing, where the best discount on the Baltimore harbor crossings is about 40 cents. This sounds like a subsidy, and many contributors to this blog sound like folks who don’t like subsidies.”

      This sounds like someone who really doesn’t personally understand the economy and demographics of a rural County like Cecil, in particular (Harford to a lesser degree), and how Cecil County’s connection to the rest of the State is completely unique to all other toll situations. For people who live in Cecil County, there is effectively a toll booth at the end of their driveway. It will cost them more to visit their own State than the 2 States they border.

      As I have mentioned a few times, the tunnel crossings are a convenience. The Hatem bridge is not a convenience.

      As far as I’m concerned, the proposed EZ pass plan for Hatem is fantastic. I don’t like it better than the decal, but I’m over it. That’s only because I have the means to manage it. Many, many others do not have those means.

      “Anyone who doesn’t believe that I-95 needs additional lanes hasn’t commuted on that road in the past 10 years.”

      I drive it all the time. Not normally in rush hour, but I have done it scores and scores of times. It sucks. But the idea we can use extra lanes to pave our way out of congestion is ludicrous. I might be wrong, but I am pretty sure in this case, the extra toll lanes aren’t going to solve anything.

      “I have driven in many (but not all) states, including a number of very heavily populated areas. For my money, Maryland’s roads are among the most well maintained and best signed in the nation.”

      Just wanted to emphasize this, as I totally agree. I’ve never been anywhere with better roads.

      “And the per-mile toll on that road will probably be the highest in MD.”

      Except for the $12 per mile rate on the Hatem.

    • Brint says

      The C&D bridge is owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the same agency who built and maintained the C&D canal. The canal is vital to our state in terms of shipping revenues and jobs that it brings, but without the bridge, simple travel between communities would take much longer, and some folks would feel quite cut off.

      • Posthaus says

        I cannot understand, why you cannot see the same logic applied to the Hatem Bridge?

        And what about the Wilson Bridge? That’s an entirely new span..but with no tolls.

      • Displaced Philadelphian says

        “…but without the bridge, simple travel between communities would take much longer, and some folks would feel quite cut off.”

        If that’s your logic, then isn’t Hatem vital too? Or do you see Harford and Cecil residents and businesses either: a) paying the $5 toll on 95 (.80 if you’re an EZ-Pass commuter, but that’s going up too come October), then getting back on to route 40, or b) driving 11 miles from Hatem to Conowingo and cutting back across to 40?

        When reading some of your other comments, I think you fail to take into account that many Maryland residents – especially those in Harford in Cecil – are tired or paying more these services (like the roads) and getting less in return. The tolls may not seem unreasonable to you or me (I can personally afford them). For me, however, it’s more about sucking another few dollars out of us here or there that all go toward some boondoggle project that our county’s citizenry will never use.

        Thinking long term, too, it will severely impact commerce between the two counties. Residents in Cecil may decide that crossing the Hatem is no longer convenient or cost effective for them and will simply drive 20 minutes to the Delaware state line for tax-free shopping instead of taking a roundabout route to cross the Susquehanna and paying more. The casino and restaurants would take a hit with residents from Harford or beyond possibly deciding to avoid the extra expense (trust me – someone playing penny slots doesn’t want to come out of pocket for more money they could have played).

        Is anyone even looking into slapping a toll somewhere up near the PA-state line on I-83? Wouldn’t any revenue generated there far exceed that generated on a smaller section of route 40 between two of the state’s smaller counties? I’m talking put it right at the state line like in Newark, DE. We’ve got people living in PA and working here (in Baltimore, Fort Meade, etc), putting the extra stress and traffic on our road systems (I-83, 695, and 95), they don’t pay our taxes, they don’t buy our gas, etc. Has anyone even done the study? Look into that before you sever a vital link between two communities.

        • noble says

          According to Mr. Dresser at the Sun, the federal government doesn’t allow States to make previously free Interstate highways into toll roads.

          I have not had the time to corroborate that.

          The question I have about that is this: Is it that States *can’t* do it at all, or can’t do it without permission from the Fed govt? Is there some process by which a proposal could be made to do it? Again, I haven’t had the time to sort that out yet.

          It’s clear we can’t rely on anybody at the Sun or the MDTA to figure that out.

  17. Rob in Bel Air, says


    I know you are doing your best here, but the fact is, not all Maryland voters voted for O’Malley. O’Malley won because of Baltimore City (where many benefit from tax and spend liberals), PG County (an area infested with government and union workers – tend to favor democrats) and Montgomery County (an area of the state that is pretty much owned and operated by foreigners). O’Malley pulled one off when he did the commercials about fees being taxes etc. Unfortunately many Maryland voters bought it and now look where we are at . . . doubling fees and new and higher taxes.

    I also blame the Repbulican party for not putting up a better candidate. But until the state solves the voter fraud issues (voting dead people, illegals voting), the dems will win and continue to stick it to “working” and tax paying Marylanders.

    I hope this helps . . .

  18. monster says

    Yes. The problem in our state is not O’Malley, it is the people who vote for him and the career politicians like him.

  19. amazed says

    If the plan is to further isolate and alienate Cecil County while hurting current businesses, making it unattractive to BRAC personnel, suppressing community, housing, industrial and economic growth and maintaining or increasing the current numbers of folks living at or below the poverty level in one of the poorest counties I must say my hat is off to the MTA.

  20. readyman says

    It is not about the Money With an ezypass type gizmo They will be tracking our every move

    • noble says

      Do you really think the government needs an EZ Pass system to track your movements? There are probably 10 other ways they could follow everywhere you ever go, not just through toll facilities.

      Of course, those other 10 won’t involve you paying them. 😉

        • noble says

          I don’t know why I’m bothering, but…

          First of all, I never said anything about it “all” being about tolls. I just suggested it wasn’t “all” about the government figuring out where you are on the weekends.

          Personally, I really don’t care if the government listens to every phone call I make, reads every email I send, and follows my car every day of the week. That’s because I don’t do anything wrong. Ever. So I’m not worried about it.

          Of course that wouldn’t make it okay. I’m just saying I’ve got nothing to worry about. I love me some Patriot Act. In fact (side note), nothing makes me more sick than people who were all for the Patriot act 10 years ago, and suddenly 3 years thought it was all about government trying to crush their liberty. (side note over)

          Anyway. Have you heard of GPS? They can stick one on your car and track everywhere you go. Satellites? They can see what brand of cigarettes you like to buy and how many you smoke before Sunday in your shirt pocket. Do you use any form of electronic payments at all? If not, what are you, a frontier militia member? Come on, man.

          Next thing you’ll be telling me you live in a wood shack with tin foil on your head.

  21. Public Comments says

    “Your comment number is 00002704.” This is not sufficient. You need to submit your comments to MdTA at http://www.mdta.maryland.gov . Looking at the center box and its Subheadings: Public Hearing Board, Public Hearing Handouts, Financial Information, and More Information. Scroll down to More Information and select Submit Public Comment. Tell your friends and family.