ANNAPOLIS – Summertime beachgoers along Route 50 might catch a break in their wallets – and their gas tanks – if a freshman state lawmaker succeeds in passing his first General Assembly bill.
Delegate Tony McConkey, R-Anne Arundel, wants toll operators to stop taking money when traffic is backed up more than 5 miles from the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge and moving at less than 30 miles per hour.
Toll collections would resume once congestion clears.
“I’ve tried to make my bill as flexible as possible, but there reaches a point when the impact (of delays) is so great on the community,” McConkey said. “And this is definitely a lot cheaper than some solutions — like building another bridge.”
The measure is the first solo bill McConkey has sponsored since he took office this year, although he is a co-sponsor of others.
Passage may not be easy. With the state facing a $1.7 billion budget deficit, legislators are scrounging for money to preserve existing projects and services.
Bay Bridge tollkeepers collected $30.3 million in fiscal year 2001, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority’s most recent annual report. The one-way, eastbound toll costs $2.50 for a two-axle vehicle, with each additional axle costing $2.50.
Authority officials declined to discuss the proposal.
“Congestion relief is very important to us, and we are continuing to examine various options to achieve that,” said MTA spokeswoman Lori Vidil. “(This proposal) is under internal review.”
Vidil said more than 11.9 million vehicles crossed the eastbound span in 2001. Tolls help support maintenance and debt payment for the bridge.
Anne Arundel County officials are closely watching the bill, but have not taken a position on it. They acknowledge public concern is growing.
“It’s too early to speculate how it would affect local traffic,” said Pam Jordan, a spokeswoman with the county’s land use department. “We’re aware of it, and we’re waiting for the hearing to make any further opinions.”