House Bill 1007: Highway Electronic Toll and Fee Consolidation Act
The Intercounty Connector (ICC) is a very large, controversial highway that is being built to connect I-270 in Gaithersburg to I-95 in Laurel. They started construction on this road in 2009 and it is not scheduled to be completed until 2014. As many people are aware, this will be a toll road. And the tolls will be amongst the highest in the nation (up to 35¢ per mile).
However, what many people are unaware of is that this will be an EZ-Pass only road. There will be no toll plazas. The Maryland Transit Authority has made this decision as a way to save money that would otherwise go towards construction and operation/staffing of the toll plazas. If you have an EZ-Pass transponder, you will drive through and the toll will be automatically deducted.
So what if you don't have an EZ-Pass transponder? Many people don't because the cost of having a transponder is $21 to get a set of four and an additional $1.50 per month "maintenance fee". People who don't plan to use the ICC won't have a transponder but may end up using the road in a pinch anyway. If you don't have a transponder, a photograph of your vehicle's license plate will be taken, your residence identified and you will be sent a bill in the mail plus a $3 "Notice of Toll Due" fee. This $3 dollar fee will be billed per car, per trip.
So, think about it. If you live in Gaithersburg, and drive back-and-forth to Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) on the ICC without a transponder, you will receive two invoices in the mail and will be charged two $3 fees. If each member of your family-of-four did the same, you would receive eight invoices in the mail and would be charged eight $3 fees. This is a waste of your money and a perfect example of government inefficiency. There is no reason that those toll charges couldn't be consolidated onto a single invoice with a single $3 fee.
For this reason, I have introduced House Bill 1007: Highway Electronic Toll and Fee Consolidation Act. This bill mandates that whenever their is a need to issue a "Notice of Toll Due" invoice, it is issued only once per month, per car owner. All charges within a month should be consolidated onto that single invoice with a single fee for processing and handling. It should slightly lower the effective toll rate that non EZ-Pass holders pay.
You can read the actual text of the bill by clicking here.
You can watch a brief video of an exchange between myself and Ron Freeland (Executive Secretary of the Maryland Toll Authority) during the Montgomery County Transportation Transportation Roadshow in Rockville, MD which occurred on 11/12/2009 below. In this video, I zero-in on the periodicity of the "Notice of Toll Due" fees. The transcript of that video is shown below:
Me [SA]: Thank you; I had two or three questions in this regard of the ICC tolling because many of my constituents are very directly affected by this road. One of the first questions -- and it's two or three questions combined -- is: I've heard that for those people who don't have EZ-Pass transponders in their car, they will get a bill in the mail for the toll charge plus a $3 service fee. Is that correct?Ron Freeland, Executive Secretary of the MTA [RF]: That's correct. (Okay) There would be a, what we call a "Notice of Toll Due," and that would be $3 and the individuals would pay the $3 as an administrative fee for processing the actual toll itself, that is, we'd have to identify the license plate, then prepare a bill and send the bill out.[SA]: Well, that raises a host of other questions. Suppose, for example, that I am in a household of 4 people, with 4 cars. And these people, this family, each member of the family drives back and forth on this road 3 or 4 times without an EZ-Pass transponder. How many $3 charges will they incur, for example, if there were 10 round trips in a week?[RF]: For each time they use the facility, that is, they use the ICC and if they did not have an EZ-Pass, they would infact be charged a notice of toll due. The preferred way to do that, quite frankly, for that family of 4, to apply for one EZ-Pass account because you can put 4 transponders on 1 account.[SA]: You have 4 transponders on 1 account?[RF]: You can put 4 transponders on 1 account. (Okay) That way, they would all be able to use the ICC and use EZ-Pass as well.[SA]: Right, but you didn't... The question I am asking is: Are those $3 charges going to be grouped by vehicle, or grouped by household, or grouped by month? Because if someone goes back and forth several times in a short period of time, the service charge, in my estimation, should only apply once. You know, they should be grouped together on one bill.[RF]: The way that it is organized and designed, the service charge or notice of toll due of $3, it would be charged per vehicle, per trip.[SA]: Per vehicle, per trip?[RF]: Per trip. Correct.[SA]: Okay... that's a very significant policy and it may have very serious ramifications.[RF]: It is, and I'm sure that it will come up in the public comments that we are now taking in. I should mention, however, this is a policy that applies to all of the Transportation Authority's facilities, not just the ICC.[SA]: Okay.