Seacoast Online | E-ZPass Rates to increase 1 cent per mile
Board gives final approval to raise tolls
By Susan Morse, August 22, 2012
Local officials expressed disappointment at the news that the Maine Turnpike Authority board unanimously approved a plan Thursday, Aug. 16, to raise cash tolls by $1 at the York toll plaza.
Drivers will now pay $3 instead of $2 in York if using cash. E-ZPass users will pay an additional penny per mile, according to MTA Executive Director Peter Mills. Tolls will increase at New Gloucester and West Gardiner as well.
“Paying tolls electronically with a Maine E-ZPass remains the most affordable and equitable option for Maine Turnpike users,” Mills said.
Rates vary depending upon the destination, according to MTA spokesman Dan Morin.
E-ZPass users going through the York tolls and getting off in Wells currently pay an estimated 80 cents, Morin said Thursday. Under the toll increase, the rate will go up to 95 cents for E-ZPass users, he said.
The new rates will go into effect Nov. 1.
With the new rates, the full-length cash trip from York to Augusta will increase from $5 to $7, while the most common cash toll for a standard commercial-truck (Class 5) will rise from $20 to $28. The increase will be applied to all vehicle classes.
Thursday’s announcement came as no surprise, as the MTA board was expected to formalize the plan to increase toll cash rates at York and other selected toll plazas to raise revenue to cover upcoming debt payments. Local residents expressed concern that the toll hike will affect their pocketbooks. They also expressed worry that traffic could increase through southern York County towns if more vehicles divert from the turnpike to back roads to avoid the toll.
State Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York, said she was disappointed in the MTA’s decision.
“People spoke loudly for not doing this,” she said. “They rolled back increases everywhere else but York. I’m extremely disappointed with the MTA.”
In South Berwick, Hill said, she’s hearing that people want to stop 18-wheelers from coming into town on Route 4.
“The commercial fee is going to be increased substantially,” she said. “It’s going to drive more commercial vehicles to back roads.”
State Rep. Windol Weaver, R-York, said, “You know it’s going to put leakage off to York; they’ll not pay $3.”
“Like everybody else, I’m disappointed,” said state Rep. Brad Moulton, R-York.
Moulton said he believes drivers heading south on a busy summer Sunday will “begrudgingly” pay the toll, even with the rate increase, but will continue to divert to back roads farther south to avoid the traffic backup at the Piscataqua River Bridge into New Hampshire.
“It’s (an issue) a number of people raise with me,” he said. “There has been a big problem on weekends.”
The rate increase, he added, “is not helping anything.”
The cash toll, depending on where one enters and exits the turnpike, can be higher than the cost to E-ZPass users. Some say this supports the argument that E-ZPass use will increase because of the toll hike, negating the need for a new cash toll plaza.
Think Again is a grass-roots organization in York that supports all-electronic tolling as the financial and environmental alternative to the MTA’s plan to rebuild the current toll plaza. The plan is on hold as the MTA continues to study the issue.
“If you have E-ZPass, it is so much less expensive,” said Joan Jarvis of Think Again. “This is going to make it even less expensive, considerably less expensive.”
“It does sound like the best way to go is with E-ZPass,” Moulton said. “(The MTA) hasn’t decided what to do about the tollbooth. The longer we wait, the better chance we have.”
The toll plaza for Interstate 95 northbound is just north of Exit 7 for York. For southbound traffic, the York exit is just past the tolls.
Even after a toll adjustment, the turnpike will remain among the lowest priced toll roads in the United States, according to a Turnpike Authority statement.
When the rate increase goes into effect, those traveling through New Gloucester will pay $2.25 cash instead of $1.75; and West Gardiner will increase from $1.25 to $1.75 in cash, according to the MTA.
Tolls for motorists traveling north from Exit 19 in Wells and south from Exit 63 in Gray will increase from $1 to $1.50 cash. Travelers entering and exiting all other side tolls and entering the turnpike from Interstate 295 in Gardiner will not be affected.
The MTA board is urging turnpike staff to focus on expanding E-ZPass use, Mills said.
“We soon plan to make E-ZPass even easier to get,” he said.
To sign up for E-ZPass, visit the Maine Turnpike headquarters off the Portland Jetport (Exit 46), visitwww.MaineTurnpike.com or call toll free (888) 682-7277.