Cumberland Times-News

December 26, 2012

Oldtown Bridge pass likely

New agreement includes a monthly toll program

From Staff Reports
Cumberland Times-News

— OLDTOWN — A proposed settlement agreement on toll rates for the Oldtown Bridge includes a continued monthly pass program, apparently in response to about a hundred residents who turned out for a previous hearing on toll increases that included termination of the monthly pass program.

Monthly passes would increase to $45 from the current $14 under the proposed settlement. The monthly pass would be good for unlimited crossings during the month.

Cars, trucks and vans used for passenger transportation would rise from 50 cents to $1.50 per crossing. All other vehicles would rise from $1 to $1.50.

There are exceptions — tractor-trailers and buses will rise from $2 to $6 per crossing and motorcycles and ATVs from 25 cents to 50 cents.

Terms of the settlement are filed with the Maryland Public Service Commission.

“Staff and the operator request that the public utility law judge and the commission approve the settlement in an expedited manner,” a Dec. 5 letter from Lloyd  Spivak, assistant staff counsel for the PSC, states. The letter is addressed to David Collins, executive secretary of the PSC.

The bridge has needed major repairs for years. The operator of the bridge, Lori Roberts, has said she would have to close the bridge without a substantial rate increase to cover the repairs and compensations for herself and staff members.

PSC staff, in a memorandum on the proposed settlement, said that because the increases are lower than the owner requested, the repair schedule for the bridge may have to be extended.

The monthly pass will be available for 18 months following the rate increases; after that, the bridge operator may extend availability of the monthly pass. PSC staff had originally agreed with the elimination of a monthly pass.

A hearing on the proposed settlement has been set for Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. at Oldtown Old School, 19210 Opessa St. An evidentiary hearing is scheduled earlier in the day; however, that hearing is not designed for public comment.

The bridge is the only privately owned and operated toll bridge in Maryland and crosses the Potomac River between Oldtown and Green Spring, W.Va.

Concrete pedestals support the wooden bridge, according to the bridge’s website.

About 200,000 vehicles cross the bridge in a year, according to the website tollroadnews.com.

The substructure of the bridge “consists of timber beam seats, abutments and wing walls and piers,” Roberts said in her PSC testimony supporting the rate increase. “Five abutments, all the timber beam seats and the entire decking needs to be replaced.”

The bridge is important because it is the only river crossing for “approximately 15 miles in either direction, and closure of the bridge results in long detours for residents on both sides of the river,” said Jennifer Brekke-Miles of the PSC.

Documents filed in the case may be viewed on the PSC website by searching for case number 9296.