Tom Warne Report, 15 June 2012
A plan to hike tolls to bring in an additional $26 million annually has been proposed by the Maine Turnpike Authority in an effort to pay down debt associated with a massive widening project on I-95 several years ago, according to Director Peter Mills. The authority said that while ten options have been studied, a 26 percent increase is the preferred option presented to Gov. Paul LePage on June 1.
The proposal includes toll increases on the highway’s main barrier tolls and restructuring E-ZPass rates and commuter discount programs to raise needed funding for debt payments for reconstruction bonds coming due between 2014 and 2019, Mills said.
“The collateral benefit is reducing the need of the turnpike to go to the bond markets in future years,” Mills said. The proposal would put the authority on a more stable financial ground and nearly eliminate the need to borrow for future expansions.
“The one thing we really have to do is raise the $26 million,” Mills said. “How we raise it is not critical. We’ve got a plan for doing it, but we want to expose that plan to public scrutiny and see how people respond to it.” A series of public meetings are scheduled to begin June 19. The last time tolls were increased on the Maine Turnpike was in 2009.