New Maine Turnpike Toll Plaza Opens, Like Upgrading I-95 From ‘Windows 95'

Despite the new plaza at York, the Maine Turnpike Authority will not switch to completely cashless tolls like ones found on the Massachusetts Turnpike

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In the coming weeks, drivers may experience a more streamlined trip to Maine.

As of just after midnight on Wednesday, a $40 million high-speed toll plaza is now open on the Maine Turnpike in York, about a mile-and-a-half north of an older, traditional one.

Drivers with E-ZPass will no longer have to drive through individual booths on their way to and from most locations in Maine.

Instead, they will be able to continue at highway speeds under a gantry, similar to setups in nearby New Hampshire and other toll plazas along the Maine Turnpike.

"Now we have three highway speed lanes in either direction," said Erin Courtney, the public outreach manager for the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Alongside the high-speed lanes are multiple booths to collect cash tolls.

Courtney said those will remain and the Maine Turnpike Authority will not switch to completely cashless tolls like ones found on the Massachusetts Turnpike for various reasons, from keeping toll collectors employed to retaining revenue that might otherwise be lost.

"There's a large portion of revenue that you can't capture when you try to send someone a bill," she explained.

"They just won't respond or, in the case of Canadians, we can't even get their address to send them a bill," she added.

Courtney estimates that around 10% of Maine Turnpike traffic originates in Canada.

While toll automation is not happening now, Courtney did say that the new plaza is equipped to be retrofitted for fully electronic collection if the turnpike chooses to move in that direction.

More immediately, the technology inside the facility is a significant upgrade from what was being used in the old booths.

That now-closed plaza had no cameras to capture license plates in cash lanes should someone simply drive through. It only had four rudimentary black and white cameras in each E-ZPass lane.

Courtney described that as similar to "running a Windows 95 at York when everything else is on a much more updated system."

All lanes in the new plaza will have 16 color cameras taking pictures of license plates.

Asked about their experience driving through the new toll area on Wednesday, drivers said they were glad construction on the new plaza was wrapping up but found the presence of the old booths "confusing" because of a lack of notice to drivers that they were no longer in use.

"I was just coming in from Massachusetts saying, 'Are you supposed to slow down here? What's going on?'" said Sean Wasson of Gardiner, Maine.

"They should have a sign," said Allyson Riggs of Bath.

According to Courtney, the old toll booths will be taken down in the coming weeks, in hopes of having a new three-lane highway through that section complete by winter.

Her message to drivers while that happens is to be aware of lane closures and changes there and travel carefully.

"We'll have three different configurations from now to mid-October, so drive safe and follow the speed limit," she said.

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