August 17, 2012
Tolls will go up on the Maine Turnpike starting Nov. 1. Last week, the Maine Turnpike Authority Board unanimously approved a plan to raise an additional $21.14 million in toll revenue to continue a 30-year plan to maintain and rehabilitate the Turnpike's network of bridges, interchanges and pavement and well as pay off existing debt.The full-length cash trip from York to Augusta will increase from $5 to $7 for passenger cars, while the most-common cash toll for a standard five-axle commercial truck (Class 5) will rise from $20 to $28. Trucks will continue to pay four times the rate of passenger vehicles. An earlier proposal would have bumped that to 4.25 times, adding an estimated $2 million a year in costs to the state's trucking industry.The increase will be applied to all vehicle classes. Even after a toll adjustment the Turnpike will remain among the lowest priced toll roads in the U.S, according to Turnpike officials.Officials also note that they agreed to hold constant the Commercial Vehicle Multiplier and allow commercial rates to rise only in proportion to base rates. The current discount system for commercial users will be preserved.In addition, to reduce the rate hike, they've cut the operating budget for 2013 by more than 11% and plan to cut another 4% from 2014. A number of projects have been postponed.According to published reports, the president of the Maine Motor Transport Association said he was confident that the toll increase was necessary. However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association believes that with these toll charges they are being doubly taxed since they pay a tax on fuel. The group believes they should receive tax credits to pay for the fuel their trucks use while on the Maine Turnpike.OOIDA issued a call to action on Aug. 6, calling on truckers in Maine to voice their concerns. Under the plan, the current $20 cash toll from Kittery to Augusta would increase to $29.75. That would make the trip 31.5 cents per mile for commercial vehicles.The board decide to only increase the base rates on E-ZPasses by 1 cent more per mile traveled. Commercial E-ZPass customers are subject to that four-times multiplier. More than 80% of commercial vehicles pay by E-ZPass, about half through transponders issued by other states and about half issued by Maine.During the next five years, revenue will enable the MTA to conduct $113 million in bridge repairs and rehabilitation and provide $82 million for turnpike paving and interchange improvements. The MTA will also apply $192 million to debt service between 2013 and 2017.