LEWISTON — He wanted to bring his financial experience to the Maine Turnpike Authority. That's one reason Bob Stone accepted the post on the MTA board when the governor's office called last fall.
Stone, a longtime banker, now a vice president at Androscoggin Bank, was confirmed by the state Senate in September to represent Androscoggin County. He took the seat left by Lucien Gosselin, who had been an MTA member for 13 years.
“I know how important the turnpike is to the state, especially to Androscoggin County,” said Stone, 63. “I call it the economic aorta of the state. It’s very important the turnpike is kept in tremendous shape.”
He began a six-year term at a busy time. Lewiston’s turnpike exit is getting a redesign and tolls will face scrutiny as prices most likely rise in 2013. Stepped-up payments are due in the coming years to pay for part of the turnpike-widening project.
“There’s no way in heck we can operate the turnpike on the existing toll levels,” Stone said.
His hope, based on tentative price talks: “People up and down the turnpike are going to pay for the part of the turnpike they use. There will be a lot of equity.
“I believe Lewiston-Auburn folks will be happy with the structure,” he said. “Nobody’s going to be happy with the increased tolls.”
Changes will have to be recommended by the MTA and approved by the Legislature.
Despite frequent calls for an additional exit into the Twin Cities that comes closer to the downtown, Stone said, the revamped Exit 80 "is probably the only interchange we'll see in Lewiston for a long time."
MTA Executive Director Peter Mills said it was fitting the authority lost one finance specialist from Lewiston and gained another.
“We’re going to be borrowing $75 million on the eighth of March and refinancing $40 million to $80 million in outstanding bonds — this is a huge transaction for us,” Mills said. “Bob is quick. He just understands it all.”
Stone, who served for several years on the city of Lewiston’s Finance Committee, has been named head of the MTA’s Finance Subcommittee.