Maine's southern toll plaza becomes battle of consultants - town hires eTrans v HNTB

January 22, 2010
By Peter Samuel

The political battle over the design of Maine's southern toll plaza has seen the town of York hire their own toll system consultant to combat HNTB and the Maine Turnpike Authority. York mayor Michael Estes announced the hiring of Atlanta Georgia based eTrans at a large public meeting on the contentious issue Thursday night in York.

Estes, formally chairman of the York Board of Selectmen told the meeting that eTrans principal Daryl Fleming had said all-electronic tolling (AET) is "a feasible option." Estes showed an eTrans schematic (see below) of a possible AET layout at the existing York toll plaza.

eTrans worked as in-house consultants on toll systems to the Puerto Rico toll authority during their conversion to electronic tolling, to Georgia, were involved in the pioneer AET project 407-ETR in Toronto Canada, worked on the 91 Express Lanes for OCTA, DRJTBC, and are involved with URS in North Carolina, and on several UTS projects.

A local report of the Thursday evening meeting (see link below) quotes a US Army Corps Engineers official Jay Clements as saying the Corps - which is the official permitting authority for the new toll plaza - will permit presentation of data on all-electronic tolling as an alternative to the new toll plaza schemes with open road tolling and cash on the sides (ORT+cash) being presented by the Turnpike Authority.

The town of Maine with strong local support has taken the position that the toll plaza should remain at its current location until all-electronic tolling is feasible.

The Turnpike Authority wants open road tolling through the middle plus cash lanes on the sides, but at a new location. The present location is unsuited for the diverge-merge movements of ORT+cash because of a curve in the highway that restricts sight lines, and the close proximity of the York interchange.  It is also an expensive location in which to build cash toll lanes because of swampy soil conditions - that have caused serious subsidence of existing gores and booths.

HNTB has also advised the Turnpike that all-electronic tolling (AET) is a huge financial risk because of the interstate traffic involved. HNTB's analysis claims by contrast that open road tolling will see only trivial "leakage."

Fleming told us today open road tolling or all-electronic tolling will each present a collections challenge to the Maine Turnpike. He grew up in Lincoln Maine (north of Bangor) himself, and got a bunch of impressive engineering and planning credentials (BScE, MScE, and PhD) in Maine and New Brunswick before moving south.

He remembers run-ins that his father and neighbors had with a few of the many summer visitors from New York or Massachusetts who come to hunt, fish, and hike, and occasionally to thieve and cheat.

"Maine people know that's a problem," he says.

But he says if you apply smarts to the problem you can handle it.

Fleming says he hopes the level of emotion in York can be contained and the toll plaza issues decided by a quiet, open-minded discussion what could work, what works and what doesn't work. He hopes the best solution is found for York, for the Turnpike and for motorists.

local report of meeting:

http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20100122-NEWS-1220403


eTrans: http://www.etransgroup.com/

Maine Turnpike on the southern toll plaza replacement:

http://www.maineturnpike.com/about/stp.php

TOLLROADSnews 2010-01-22

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