Maine Turnpike moving to modify toll increases - cash increases large, transponder hikes smaller
By Peter Samuel
2012-08-02: The Maine Turnpike Authority is responding to some of the criticism of its proposed toll increases, cutting some proposed hikes but keeping others. Under a new schedule approved by the Turnpike board E-ZPass tolls will rise only 10% from 6.7c/mile to 7.4c/mile for cars compared to the initial proposal of a 20% increase to 8c/mile.
However tolls for cash will still rise strongly - between 28% and 50%. The Authority is sticking to its proposal for a $1.00 increase - from $2.00 to $3.00 for cast at the big York toll plaza closest to the state border in the south. But mainline plazas at New Gloucester and West Gardiner in the north will go up only 50c versus 75c proposed earlier for cash.
The new toll structure is projected to increase revenue by about $21 million/year versus $27m previously. Extra reveneue is need to service Turnpike debt and to support a 30-year plan to maintain and rehabilitate the Turnpike's bridges, interchanges and pavement.
They started with 10 different options, one favored by the board and invited public comment and
ran six public meetings.
Executive director Peter Mills says "the public's input is an important part of this process."
E-ZPass advantage being increased
He has been saying that people can save by getting an E-ZPass transponder. Cash still accounts for over 30% of transactions on the Maine Turnpike system but the new toll rates will increase the monetary advantage of going electronic versus paying cash.
A trip Kittery to Augusta, the full length of the Turnpike will go from $5.00 to $7.00 under the new plan with cash. It costs $4.80 presently with a transponder a savings of only 20c. But a 10% increase will mean a $5.30 E-ZPass toll and a savings versus cash of $1.70.
The Board is due to make a final decision on the new toll structure at its August 16 meeting.
The Maine Turnpike is one of a handful of American tollers that tolls by trip registering entry and exit and applying a toll based on the mileage, rounded. That's for transponder tolling. They do point tolling (sometimes called barrier tolling) for cash transactions meaning that many trips involve payment of a cash toll twice.
The Turnpike once had a ticket system for cash in which the ticket was issued on entry and tendered on exit. Tickets were abandoned when electronic tolling began.
Five to ten years before all-electronic
At the IBTTA conference in Atlanta recently Peter Mills said he's inclined to move to all-electronic tolling first at a northern toll point with little interstate traffic. He said his guess is that the Maine Turnpike will move entirely to all-electronic in a five to ten years timeframe, but the Authority is unlikely to move without solid interstate arrangements that will guarantee collecting tolls over state lines and protect their revenue stream.
An agreement with New Hampshire and Massachusetts is a first step, Mills said, but with about half the revenue at York, the largest toll point coming from interstate traffic, Maine is not going to risk revenue at this time.