SANDY POINT — Fulfilling Governor Larry Hogan’s directive to deliver all-electronic tolling at the Bay Bridge by summer 2020, the Maryland Transportation Authority announced Tuesday, May 5, that the bridge’s new full-time all-electronic system will go live Tuesday, May 12, weather permitting.
Since March 17, in an effort to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 emergency, temporary cashless tolling has been in place statewide to protect drivers and toll collectors by eliminating interaction at the toll booths. Frontline employees and contractors have been working hard during this public health emergency to keep this and other critical infrastructure projects on schedule, MDTA said in a news release.
The permanent all-electronic tolling system at the Bay Bridge includes three highway-speed traffic lanes that will tie into the two existing lanes on the eastbound bridge and the one westbound contraflow (two-way) lane.
Crews recently installed the new overhead tolling gantry across eastbound US 50 between the bridge and MD 8 and are completing software installation and testing.
With all-electronic tolling, drivers don’t stop at toll booths. Tolls are collected via the overhead gantry through E-ZPass and video tolling payment methods. The system provides convenience for motorists, less engine idling for better fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, decreased congestion and increased safety, MDTA said. Bay Bridge drivers will save a combined, estimated 42,000 hours annually with all-electronic tolling. They also can save money with E-ZPass and pay as little as $1.40 daily to cross the bridge.
“As we convert Maryland toll facilities to all-electronic tolling, now is the time for cash customers to sign-up for E-ZPass Maryland,” said MDTA Executive Director James F. Ports Jr. “Thanks to previous money-saving initiatives by Governor Hogan, E-ZPass Maryland customers pay no monthly fee and receive a free transponder.”
Even though full-time all-electronic tolling will begin May 12 at the Bay Bridge, the MDTA will extend the time drivers without E-ZPass will be charged the cash rate of $4, giving customers more time to sign up and get an E-ZPass through the mail. Effective 30 days after Maryland’s COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted, bridge drivers without E-ZPass will be charged the video toll rate of $6.
During non-summer months, up to 90 percent of Bay Bridge drivers already use E-ZPass and, overall, 74 percent of Bay Bridge drivers are E-ZPass customers, according to MDTA.
E-ZPass Customer Service Centers, including those at Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration branches, are closed due to the COVID-19 state of emergency. MDTA will post updates and announce when the centers reopen at ezpassmd.com. The website also includes a list of retailers at grocery stores offering E-ZPass On the Go, a ready-to-use transponder with a pre-paid toll balance of $25.
As construction remains underway in the Bay Bridge toll plaza area, MDTA reminds motorists to obey all signs and speed limits. Following the opening of permanent all-electronic tolling on May 12, construction will include the removal of remaining toll booths and canopy and full roadway reconstruction.
Implementation of the permanent all-electronic tolling system follows the announcement last month that the critical westbound right lane deck rehabilitation project on the Bay Bridge has been completed well in advance of the summer 2020 goal — and a year ahead of the initial construction schedule. That project also was accomplished amid the state’s response to COVID-19. During the state of emergency, MDTA and its contractors have worked to deliver this and other essential projects, leveraging the lower than normal traffic volumes while adhering to state and federal health and safety guidelines.
The Bay Bridge will be Maryland’s third toll facility converted to all-electronic tolling. The Francis Scott Key Bridge (I-695) in Baltimore and the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge (US 40) between Harford and Cecil counties went live with cashless tolling in October 2019. The Intercounty Connector (ICC/MD 200) in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the I-95 Express Toll Lanes in Baltimore have used all-electronic tolling since opening.