State Bill Aims to Eliminate ICC Tolls for Public School Buses

State Bill Aims to Eliminate ICC Tolls for Public School Buses

Del. Eric Luedtke said forcing public school buses to pay the toll doesn't make sense

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Montgomery County school buses

Aaron Kraut

Montgomery County state legislators are hoping to give public school buses a free ride on the Intercounty Connector.

Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Burtonsville) is sponsoring a bill that would exempt public school buses—including those from outside the county—from paying tolls on the ICC.

The bill is being proposed after county school board member Patricia O’Neill asked legislators to eliminate the tolls to help save money as well as to help make bus routes more efficient. Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery Village) is introducing the bill in the state Senate.

Montgomery County Public Schools spends nearly $18,000 per year on ICC tolls, according to MCPS spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala. Buses primarily use the highway for cross-county special education routes and sports trips. O’Neill said during a legislative hearing in November that the school system’s buses often avoid using the road because of the toll.

The highway is a state road maintained by the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA).

“It doesn’t make sense for one part of the government to be paying another part of the government,” Luedtke said in an interview Thursday. “The ICC is a safer road, there are fewer accidents on it, so we want school buses to use it.”

Luedtke said legislators will need to discuss the fiscal impact of the legislation with state transportation officials, but he’s hopeful that issue can be worked out.

One possible roadblock to its passage is the fact that MDTA is governed by a trust agreement for the benefit of its bondholders, which doesn't exempt county-owned buses from the tolls. However, the tens of thousands of dollars paid by school buses represents a tiny fraction of the $56 million in tolls collected on the highway in fiscal 2015, which ended June 30.

The bill only applies to the ICC, but Luedtke said he would be open to expanding the legislation to include other toll roads such as the Bay Bridge or Harbor Tunnel. Luedtke said he’s not sure when lawmakers may act on the legislation during this year’s General Assembly, which began Wednesday and is scheduled to end April 11, but he’s hoping the bill can get an early committee hearing so it can begin moving through the legislature.

A map of the Intercounty Connector. MDTA.

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