So far, the Intercounty Connector and 95 Express Lanes — the state’s two newest toll roads — are the only ones with all-electronic payment systems. The Maryland Transportation Authority, which manages the state’s eight toll roads and bridges, said it plans to transition to an all-electronic toll system at all of its locations. The process could take years.
State transportation officials have cited multiple benefits to having an all-electronic tolling system, from decreased congestion to reduced car emissions. By spending less time idling and stopping to pay a toll, Marylanders will save $1 million and 44,000 hours in fuel and time savings, according to the state. Additionally, officials say they anticipate more fluid speeds and fewer crashes.
“Our customers want to save time when paying tolls and the convenience of cash free travel,” Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn said in April.
MdTA officials did not respond to multiple inquiries to discuss the move.
States across the country have been moving toward cashless tolling for several years, closing toll plazas as more drivers opt for electronic payment systems such as E-ZPass.
Electronic toll systems also allow toll operators to charge higher fees during rush hour. In Maryland, an all-electronic system would enable the state to implement dynamic tolling — where rates would change based on demand — for the planned toll lanes on Interstates 495 and 270.
Maryland’s transition to cashless at the Key and Hatem bridges will affect about 60,000 drivers who cross the bridges daily. MdTA officials said in April that about 93 percent of Hatem Bridge drivers and 80 percent of Key Bridge drivers already use E-ZPass.
The state began to demolish the existing toll plazas at the two bridges this month and will install overhead tolling gantries this summer at both locations. The MdTA is spending $26.6 million for new overhead gantries and signage, toll plaza demolition, pavement reconstruction and commercial vehicle inspection rehabilitation work.
As part of the effort to remake the state’s toll system, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) last year made E-ZPass transponders free to all new customers, eliminating a $7.50 fee, which Hogan said saved Marylanders millions and helped improve travel through the toll plazas.
In recent months, the state has also increased its marketing of E-ZPass, which, if used correctly, can save drivers the cost of penalties and move them through toll lanes more quickly.
More than 1 million people have an E-ZPass in the state, and nearly 79 percent of the toll transactions are made with an E-ZPass transponder, according to the MdTA.
Last week, Hogan announced three new programs he said would save Marylanders about $5.6 million a year.
One proposal would allow drivers who use the video tolling system — which permits motorists without an E-ZPass transponder to pay a higher toll rate by mail — to get discounts by paying online before invoices are mailed.
A Maryland driver using video tolling today gets a bill that is 50 percent higher than the rate of drivers who pay cash. If approved by the MdTA, the program would go into effect by December 2020.
Another proposal would launch a new pay-by-plate option next summer to allow tolls to be automatically billed to credit cards at the same rate paid by cash customers.
A third would cut toll rates for motorcycles and vehicles towing one- and two-axle trailers, such as those for fishing boats or landscaping equipment, according to officials.
“We are going to continue to try to put more money back in the pockets of taxpayers,” Hogan said last week. “In 2015, we cut tolls at every single facility in the state — the first time tolls had been cut in 50 years. With this next action, we will be delivering on three rounds of toll relief in less than five years.”