An increase may be implemented on the Turnpike starting in Febraury 2005.

PORTLAND (AP) – Motorists on the Maine Turnpike could face a toll increase in February 2005 to offset capital improvement costs.

Plans also call for a second toll increase in 2010, officials said, but the details of any toll changes were left up in the air after the Maine Turnpike Authority’s monthly meeting Friday.

An estimated $67.8 million in additional revenue is needed through 2009 for repaving, bridge repairs north of Portland and replacing the York toll plaza, among other projects, officials said.

That translates to a 22 percent increase in annual revenue next year and an additional 17 percent increase in 2010.

Paul Violette, the turnpike authority’s executive director, said he expects to recommend three or four possible options for a toll increase at the authority’s Feb. 27 meeting. He hopes the toll road’s board of directors will settle on one option by mid-2004.

The turnpike phased out paper tickets during the 1990s, but the old system of paying based on the distance traveled is still in use under the Transpass electronic toll collection system.

The current system is so complex that drivers can take 284 different routes on the 106-mile turnpike. The turnpike charges different rates for eight classifications of vehicles – from cars to 18-wheelers – and offers discounts to commuters. So there are thousands of possible fare combinations.

Following the meeting, Daniel Paradee, spokesman for the turnpike authority, said that under one example of a simplified structure, the old ticket fares would be eliminated, and drivers paying electronically would get a standard discount of perhaps 10 or 20 percent.

Next year’s toll increase offers the opportunity to entertain ideas such as seasonal tolls and peak-hour pricing, Violette said, even though raising prices during rush hour is currently prohibited under state law.

Implementing a major overhaul would make some drivers pay a greater share of the increase, Violette noted. “There are winners and losers out of each situation,” he said.

Turnpike officials expect to collect $63.2 million in tolls in 2004 and $76.9 million next year.

AP-ES-01-24-04 1225EST



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