YORK, Maine — Maine drivers may soon be paying a bit extra to travel on the state's highways. The Maine Turnpike Authority is proposing toll rate increases, in part, to offset major revenue losses during the pandemic.
The MTA receives all of its funding through tolls. Turnpike officials say the MTA brought in $60 million less than expected during the pandemic.
"I would say the pandemic precipitated the pandemic precipitated, or accelerated, the need to raise tolls, but the idea that we might have to raise them was something that had been in the long-range plan," said Maine Turnpike Authority executive director Peter Mills.
According to MTA staff, this would be first rate increase for Maine tolls since 2012. Mills said this increase would also be paid mostly by out-of-state drivers and commercial vehicles. The MTA estimates the proposed rate increase could provide an additional $17.3 million in revenue.
Those tolls increases would be seen in a few areas, including:
- Increase the cash rate at York from $3.00 to $4.00 for passenger cars and corresponding rates for remaining toll classes.
- Increase the current Maine E-ZPass rate per mile from 7.7 cents to 8.0 cents.
- Adjust the passenger car Personal Volume Discount thresholds from a 25% discount to a 20% discount for Maine E-ZPass users making 30 or more trips per month and from a 50% discount to a 40% discount for Maine E-ZPass users making 40 or more trips per month.
- Limit or eliminate image tolls (I-tolls) that count toward the Class 1 Personal Volume discount. I-tolls are created when an E-ZPass transponder is not present or not read to a valid Maine E-ZPass account.
Peter Mills says with those rate increases, out-of-staters would pay roughly 71% while in-state vehicles would pay 29%. According to MTA projections, that would be around a $0.20 increase per trip for Maine drivers.
“Recently, traffic on the Maine Turnpike has recovered and is nearing pre-pandemic levels,” said Mills. “However, the loss of revenue during the pandemic combined with new bonding constraints make it infeasible to complete future capital plans without raising tolls or adjusting discounts."
On Tuesday, the MTA hosted a public meeting at its maintenance facility in York to discuss the proposed rate increase.
"Certainly there's not a joy being felt in the trucking industry for an increase, but there's an understanding of why it's happening," said Maine Motor Transport Association president & CEO Brian Parks.
There are two additional public meetings on the topics including Wednesday, August 4 at 6:00 p.m. at the Ramada Inn in Saco, and Thursday, August 5 at 6:00 p.m. at the Ramada Inn in Lewiston.