Maine Considers Raising Its Tolls to Cover COVID-Related Dip in Revenue

The MTA’s public outreach manager said the majority of the costs would be passed on to out-of-state drivers visiting Maine

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A trip to Maine might get a bit more expensive by the end of this year.

To cover a COVID-19 related dip in revenue of $60 million, the Maine Turnpike Authority (MTA) is proposing to raise its tolls, effective Nov. 1.

According to the authority, a toll hike was planned for 2028, but this increase would essentially begin that process early by raising costs at least partially to what was expected later in the decade.

It would also cover help cover the cost of new projects such as additional highway widening in Portland, which is expected to cost more than $100 million and the construction of a new Exit 35 in Saco, for $54 million.

During a Tuesday interview with NECN/NBC 10 Boston, Erin Courtney, the MTA’s public outreach manager, said the majority of the costs would be passed on to out-of-state drivers visiting Maine, with a $1 increase for anyone paying with an EZ Pass that is not from Maine or anyone paying there with cash.

For those customers, the York toll would increase from $3.00 to $4.00.

“Given the circumstance of what everyone is living through, we know the price of everything is going up, we wanted to shield Mainers as much as possible,” said Courtney.

To that end, Maine EZ Pass users will see an increase from $0.077 to $0.08 per mile for tolls, which, according to MTA projections, would increase the per trip cost for in-state drivers by an average of $0.20.

Meanwhile, the cost of an average trip for an out-of-state driver on the Maine Turnpike would go up by $1.26.

To make the changes happen, the MTA’s board will vote in early September on the final plan for new rates. That will follow a series of meetings to gather public comment that will happen in southern and central Maine in August.

“The board has not decided on exactly what they’re going to do, this is just what we’ve proposed,” said Courtney, noting that the MTA does not receive any federal money for its projects and therefore infrastructure proposals currently in Congress would not offset the cost for new projects.

In Maine, most of the approximately 119,000 vanity plates requested by Maine motorists “show common sense and decency” but more than 400 license plates serve as exceptions, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said.

At the MTA’s Gray Service Plaza, people who spoke with NECN/NBC 10 Boston said they support upping charges to pay for new roadwork but are concerned the dollar increase in York might be a bit too high for travelers.

“Maybe 50 cents would be okay,” said John Manning of Nashua, New Hampshire.

“I’m okay with that,” said Vickie Armontrout of Oxford, Maine, of the $0.20 average increase for Mainers, while also voicing concern that $4.00 in York may deter summer visitors.

The public meetings on the increases will be held Aug. 3 in York, Aug. 4 in Saco and Aug. 5 in Lewiston.

Attendees will have an option to participate virtually over the Internet for the Aug. 4 meeting.

“There’s still time for people to weigh in," Courtney said. "We look forward to hearing from people."

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