SANDY POINT — Work will begin Sunday evening, Jan. 12, to remove toll booths at the Bay Bridge Plaza in a plan that calls for all-electronic tolling to be in place at the bridge by summer.
Maryland Transportation Authority announced an aggressive construction timeline Monday, Jan. 6, that begins with the permanent closure of toll lanes 3, 4 and 5 to allow workers to demolish the booths in those lanes.
“We know motorists who use the Bay Bridge are ready to embrace all-electronic tolling,” MDTA Executive Director Jim Ports said in a statement. “This past fall, Gov. (Larry) Hogan asked us to initiate cashless tolling at the bridge as soon as possible. This schedule will allow us to fulfill that mission, and this project is the next logical step as Maryland toll facilities move toward an all-electronic system.”
MDTA said minimal traffic impact is expected. Motorists will use the remaining open toll lanes. Removing the toll booths will create wider lanes in preparation for all-electronic tolling.
“I’m happy to see it. It’s long overdue,” Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jim Moran said in a phone interview Monday night.
Moran said plans originally called for the construction of the all-electronic tolling system at the bridge, then the removal of the toll booths. He credited the governor’s intervention with getting the implementation of cashless tolling accelerated.
“It doesn’t fix on Sunday night problem in Queen Anne’s County, but it’s going to fix the Thursday, Friday and Saturday night problem in Anne Arundel,” Moran said.
He said he was curious to see how MDTA would handle contra-flow traffic with the booth removal.
On Kent Island, crews will prepare for installation of overhead tolling gantries between the Bay Bridge and state Route 8. Toll operations will no longer exist approaching the bridge from Annapolis once the overhead tolling gantries are operational on Kent Island, MDTA said. Motorists traveling east will be tolled as they exit the bridge.
With all-electronic tolling, cash is not accepted as payment. Drivers do not have to stop to pay tolls, as overhead gantries collect tolls electronically by E-ZPass or through video tolling. The benefits of all-electronic tolling include less time idling for better fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, decreased congestion, increased driver safety and a safer work environment for employees, MDTA said.
“I’m glad they’re doing this. It’s going to keep the traffic flowing straight through,” Moran said. “It’s good for commuters. It’s good for the Broadneck Peninsula. But it’s still not going to fix our Sunday night problem.”
At the Bay Bridge, 74% of drivers already are E-ZPass customers. To prepare for the summer implementation of all-electronic tolling, MDTA is expanding its marketing and outreach efforts to encourage motorists to sign up for E-ZPass. Standard E-ZPass transponders are free, and there is no monthly fee for customers with Maryland addresses.
The E-ZPass Outreach Bus will be at the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through January. E-ZPass “On the Go” transponders are available with a credit or debit card.
“E-ZPass gets you the discount,” Moran said, while video tolling costs more. “You’re better off using E-ZPass. You’ll be saving yourself some money and headaches.”
At the Bay Bridge, the two-axle E-ZPass Maryland toll rate is $2.50, and the two-axle video toll rate is $6. Bay Bridge commuter plans also are available and provide additional discounts.
If you can’t make it to the bus at the fire department, you can sign up at ezpassmd.com or by visiting E-ZPass Maryland Customer Service Centers at MDTA toll facilities, at many Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration locations and at retail partners. A full list of locations is available at the ezpassmd.com website.
During construction, it is critical drivers obey all signs and speed limits, as the plazas will remain active work zones, MDTA said. While all-electronic tolling is expected to be fully implemented by summer, remnants of the toll plaza will remain until 2022, when demolition and roadway reconstruction will be complete.