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Expect higher toll prices on the Maine turnpike starting Monday

The Maine Turnpike Authority says it lost about $60 million in 2020 and 2021 because of a loss of traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

YORK, Maine — Check your wallets! Starting Monday, toll prices on the Maine Turnpike are increasing and discount rates are going down as a result of the pandemic.

The turnpike lost about $60 million in revenue from 2020 into 2021 as a result of less traffic during the pandemic, according to Erin Courtney, public outreach manager for the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Courtney told NEWS CENTER Maine the turnpike doesn't receive any state or federal funding, so that loss was a "big hit". 

As a result, a toll hike is going into effect on November 1 to help address that loss in revenue and fund large and long-term projects. Those changes include:

  • The York toll is going from $3 to $4 per passenger vehicle. Courtney said this will not apply to anyone with a Maine E-ZPass, though. 
  • The E-ZPass rate is increasing from 7.7 cents per mile to 8 cents per mile. 
  • The MTA is adjusting thresholds, which means discounts given on more travel will decrease. For E-Z pass users making 30 or more trips per month, a 25 percent discount will turn into a 20 percent discount. For users making 40 or more trips per month, a 50 percent discount will turn into a 40 percent discount. This threshold change applies to class one personal cars, which have two axles and a maximum of four tires.

RELATED: Maine Turnpike to raise toll fees

Courtney said these measures are expected to generate about $18 million, 71% of which should come from out-of-staters. Originally, there was supposed to be a toll increase of about 25% in 2028, according to Courtney, so officials hope this smaller increase of about 13% will allow for a "little less of a hit" in seven years. 

All of the money collected goes back into the road, whether for maintenance and operation (like paving and snowplow driving) or debt for some longer-term projects. Courtney said the MTA usually borrows bond debt for those projects. Apparently, bonding requirements have been made a lot more restrictive during the pandemic, so the MTA needs to be sure it can pay back what it is lent to keep bond rates low and be able to borrow when needed.

"All of the money that we're collecting is going back into the road, and people can directly see a result of that with the work that we're doing," Courtney said. "When you're driving through the Portland area, we've got a lot of projects going on -- big ones. Exit 45 is going to be completely different -- how you drive through that, compared to what it is now -- and [we're] adding three lanes to the Portland area. Those are all things that require us to have big-dollar projects out there. Making sure that we have the revenue necessary to keep our funding stable is needed."

RELATED: Maine Turnpike Authority expects Labor Day weekend traffic to be near pre-pandemic levels

Courtney said some projects have been delayed for about a year or so, but they're not being deferred.

"We put $106 million [into] construction in 2020, so, it was a large amount, but we also thought it was really important to make sure that we kept Maine working as much as we could," Courtney said. "We did do a lot, and we have delayed some projects that weren't necessarily needing to get done absolutely that year. They're still in the pipeline to get done. We're not deferring projects, it's just delay."

RELATED: Maine Turnpike Authority proposes toll rate increase

One important note: starting November 1, anyone who wants to get a volume discount with a Maine E-ZPass needs to make sure their transponder is properly mounted in their car. That's because plate look-ups will no longer be allowed.