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Top 5: ‘Frankly, we have no choice’

Marylanders could see increases at toll booths around the state, and a heavily-traveled street in downtown Baltimore will be closed for two weeks for construction. Those stories and more in this week’s business top 5.

1. Maryland toll increases get preliminary approval – by Nicholas Sohr

The Maryland Transportation Authority board gave preliminary approval Thursday to sweeping statewide toll increases that would more than triple the cost of some bridge crossings.

The plan would even out toll rates across the state, give E-Zpass users a 10 percent discount and raise rates for commuters and truckers. Most rate hikes would come in two phases on Oct. 1 this year and in July 2013.

2. Hackerman offer of $500M is key to GBC initiative – by Melody Simmons and Rachel Bernstein

A week after unveiling a $500 million pledge by 92-year-old construction magnate Willard Hackerman to build a combined arena and 500-room hotel, executives of the Greater Baltimore Committee are working to seal the deal in writing with executives at Hackerman’s Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and with his family.

The negotiations go to the heart of the viability of private financing for the arena and hotel, the linchpin of the $900 million GBC plan that includes $400 million in public financing for a convention center expansion.

3. PNC moving Maryland HQ to 1 E. Pratt Street – by Nicholas Sohr

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. will move its Greater Maryland headquarters to the Inner Harbor and set up shop in 1 E. Pratt St., the bank announced Tuesday.

PNC will put its name on the former Verizon building, at Pratt and Light streets, and occupy 119,000 square feet of office space, according to CB Richard Ellis, the broker for the property owner.

4. Conway Street to be closed for two weeks – by Rachel Bernstein

Baltimore City officials are warning Baltimoreans that Grand Prix construction downtown will close Conway Street starting Monday.

Conway will be closed to both eastbound and westbound traffic between Light and Charles streets starting at 5 a.m., weather permitting, according to Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc.

5. Gov. O’Malley, Mayor Rawlings-Blake request new arena study – by Rachel Bernstein

Gov. Martin O’Malley and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake have officially requested that the Maryland Stadium Authority conduct a feasibility study on plans to expand the Baltimore Convention Center and build a new arena and hotel in downtown Baltimore.

The study, which would cost about $150,000, is expected to be paid for by the state, according to the letter given to the stadium authority. The study would examine how an expanded convention center and attached arena would increase Baltimore’s convention and tourism business. Reports on Baltimore’s convention center have ranked it low among other convention centers in the U.S.