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Skip the I-81 toll plan

October 08, 2004

The residents of Williamsport aren't the only ones who should be protesting the State of Maryland's plan to place toll booths on Interstate 81.

This stupid idea deserves the scorn of every citizen, businessperson and elected official in Washington County.

Why should anyone be surprised that the intersection of two interstate highways has attracted lots of truck traffic? And why should a state government that welcomes the location of distribution centers and related facilities here believe that it can go cheap on the amenities those businesses need?

Williamsport residents' testimony came at a hearing held this week by the State Highway Administration at North Hagerstown High School.

At that hearing, Williamsport resident Chris South said that he and others feared that in an effort to escape the tolls, drivers would exit I-81 and drive through the town to bypass the toll booths.

Frankly, we doubt that will happen with anyone but local residents. Most travelers on the interstate don't like to get more than a block away from the exit when they stop for food or fuel. Will long-haul truckers get off I-81 - and possibly off- schedule - to save paying a toll that their employers would probably cover anyway?

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Our concern is the one ex-pressed this week by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

The 12-mile stretch of road that passes through Maryland is already a bottleneck. Putting toll booths on the road will only make that worse. The delay might also deter drivers who would ordinarily stop for food., fuel or lodging form doing so. State officials need to find other sources of revenue to complete this project.

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