Bryan P. Sears//May 23, 2018
//May 23, 2018
ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s annual migration to the shore could get a little cheaper for some travelers who agree to move to electronic toll payments.
Gov. Larry Hogan Wednesday said travelers who become new E-ZPass customers will be eligible to receive free transponders and, as a result, lower tolls at the Bay Bridge and other facilities that offer a discount for electronic payment.
“We will now offer E-ZPass transponders at no cost,” said Hogan. “No upfront costs, no monthly costs. No cost at all. And, lower costs for using it.”
Hogan estimated the change would “put another $46 million into the pockets of hardworking Marylanders, retirees and small businesses.”
“Not only does being an E-ZPass Maryland customer save time traveling, it also improves air quality by lowering emissions,” said Hogan. “It helps you reach the beach or make your daily commute faster and smoother. It is also the most efficient toll payment method.”
The announcement was not without a brief moment of confusion as the governor used a large red marker to cross out the $4 cash toll on a display and replace it with a $2.50 toll. Underneath, next to the E-ZPass logo, the governor scrawled the word “free.”
“It’s not very good handwriting,” the governor said, joking with reporters as he finished his edits to the prop signage.
But the governor is not offering free trans-bay travel.
Hogan estimated that the free transponders will save new customers $6 million in fees. The cost of a transponder is about $7.50 each. Those new customers are projected to save $40 million in tolls over the next five years, according to Hogan.
Existing customers will not see additional toll relief but could be eligible for a new transponder at no cost as the state seeks to update aging equipment. The state estimated that as many as 400,000 customers would receive new transponders at no cost.
Additionally, customers who purchased a transponder in 2018 will receive a credit to their account in the amount of the cost of the transponder.
Those resistant to adopting the transponder technology will continue to pay $4 per round trip under a toll reduction plan implemented in 2015.
The changes, already approved by the Maryland Transportation Authority, take effect immediately, Hogan said.
It is not expected to affect how the state pays for improvements and repairs to toll facilities or to affect the planned replacement of the Gov. Harry W. Nice Bridge that crosses the Potomac and connects Charles County to Virginia.
“We have studied all these things to make sure we have plenty of money,” said Hogan. “We’re flush with revenue, and it’s not going to be an issue,” said the governor. “We’d rather put it back in the pockets of Marylanders so they can grow our economy.”
The state is studying moving the toll collection system to an all-electronic payment format, which would require all motorist to adopt the transponders. Those who don’t use the transponders could pay higher fees for video tolls, where a camera records the license plate of the car and the owner is mailed a bill.
Hogan said that while the proposal is being reviewed there is “no timeline for forcing people to do it.”
“There are still certain people who, for whatever reason, prefer to sit in long lines and dig in their pocket and pay with change,” said Hogan. “But I think with free E-ZPasses and with these huge savings, I think we’ll get to the point where nearly everyone is going to want to use E-ZPass.”