LEWISTON — Councilors will have to move quickly if they hope to convince the Maine Turnpike Authority to consider other toll options.
City Administrator Ed Barrett gave city councilors Tuesday night a draft of a joint resolution they'll see at their next meeting July 17 asking the Authority's board to delay a vote on the toll increase.
Auburn councilors are scheduled to vote on the same resolution at their meeting Monday, July 16.
The resolution asks the Turnpike Authority's board to not vote to adopt a new toll package at their meeting Wednesday, July 18.
"They could take action that Wednesday, and we don't think that's reasonable," Barrett said. "It does not give us time to put alternate scenarios together and work with them."
Citing a need for an estimated $26.5 million per year in new revenue, the Authority began proposing new toll structures.
The Turnpike Authority's current favorite proposal calls for toll increases for the highway's main barrier tolls and a restructuring of rates for E-ZPass holders and commuter discount programs.
Cash tolls would go from from $1.75 to $2.50 at New Gloucester, from $1.25 to $2 at West Gardiner and $2 to $3 at York. Tolls for commercial trucks would increase as well.
Local officials and residents say that increase would hit Lewiston-Auburn residents working in Portland especially hard.
Turnpike Authority staff and Executive Director Peter Mills presented the plan to packed a meeting in Auburn June 19. The plan received no support from local residents at that meeting.
An alternative favored by authority member Bob Stone, a Lewiston resident, would increase tolls for people getting on and off the turnpike from the free Interstate 295.
Three turnpike exits — one just north of West Gardiner, one at the I-95-to-I-295 spur in Falmouth and one in Portland — currently allow drivers to access the toll-free I-295 after paying a $1 toll to leave the turnpike.
Drivers on I-295 must also pay a $1 toll at those three locations to get on the turnpike. Stone's proposal would increase the entrance and exit tolls at West Gardiner and Falmouth to $2.
Barrett said local officials have come up with some alternatives of their own but don't know if they would work. They are waiting for turnpike officials to review those numbers and report back.