Legislative Update - January 26, 200926-Jan-2009
Monday, January 26th, 2009
Thank you to those who provided feedback to me regarding the proposed increases for EZ-Pass users. As promised, I have forwarded all of your comments to the MdTA. Whether you disagreed with the increases or not, overwhelmingly most of you expressed concern over the process by which these changes were announced and the lack of opportunity for the public to comment.
Below please find a letter from Delegate Riley, Delegate Rudolph and myself to John Porcari, Chairman of the Maryland Tranportation Authority, addressing the process used to make these changes and requesting that several of the proposed changes be eliminated. I will continue to share any new information I receive on this issue, and as always I welcome your feedback.
Harford and Cecil Counties
January 20, 2009
Dear Chairman John Porcari,
We would like to start by first expressing our gratitude to both you and your staff for their cooperation and support in regards to the Hatem Bridge Reconstruction Project. Furthermore, we understand the grave financial difficulties facing your agency in light of declining toll revenues, and the corresponding need to find an additional funding mechanism(s) to make up for the difference. In response to the proposed changes to the E-ZPass program in Maryland, we would like to make the following recommendations:
Decision/Public Hearing — We respectfully request that your agency delay the final decision to provide for greater citizen and industry input. The 24-day period of input currently proposed by your agency is insufficient for such a substantial change in the pricing structure and levels for the E-ZPass program. Furthermore, given the current plans for your hearing review to be held in Baltimore City, we ask that your agency hold an additional evening hearing to gather citizen input.
AVI Decal — Since none of the other toll facilities will be seeing an increase in two-axle automobile toll rates, we would recommend that the proposed 100% increase from $5 to $10 for the annual commuter sticker for the Hatem Bridge be eliminated. The proposed increase is, in fact, contradictory to the previously agreed upon decision to provide the decal free during reconstruction.
Delay and Phasing-In — Due to utter gravity of both the proposed increases and the dire economic circumstances facing our state and country, we request that the proposed increases for commercial vehicles toll fees be delayed and phased-in. We certainly do not argue that these vehicles should contribute their fair share of toll revenues to the MTA, but merely call to your attention the negative economic hardships to trucking companies in light of a proposed increase of up to 52%. Delaying and phasing in the proposed increases recognizes that trucking companies have already signed contracts for this year.
3-Axle Vehicle Increase — Because of the negative impact that this increase will have on our local economy, we recommend that the proposed toll increase for 3-axle vehicles be eliminated. A vast majority of 3-axle vehicles are owner-operated (such as dump trucks) and will be correspondingly hard pressed to make up for the drastic increase. This same group of owner-operated truck drivers in our district and the state as a whole are already suffering from severe economic hardship due to the collapse of the construction industry. A toll increase would negatively impact an already depressed industry group.
Commuter Ticket — Lastly, reducing the time for commuters to use their commuter ticket plan will have a significant impact on the yearly cost of commuting to work. Such an increase (from six to eight) is a significant increase at a time when our citizens are suffering through difficult economic times.
Once again we thank you for your continued support and cooperation and look forward to further discussion on this issue affecting our state in these difficult economic circumstances.
Delegate Mary-Dulany James
Delegate B. Daniel Riley
Delegate David Rudolph