PORTLAND (AP) – As the Maine Turnpike prepares to convert to the E-ZPass electronic toll collection system, turnpike officials say they are open to exploring new ways to generate revenues outside of tolls.

Maine Turnpike Authority spokesman Dan Paradee said the idea that most interests turnpike officials involves placing ads on customers’ electronic toll statements and bills. The turnpike is currently ad-free, with no advertising at toll plazas or on toll receipts.

“I think we’re open to looking at it. Because it does provide more revenue from other sources besides tollpayers,” said Dan Paradee, spokesman for the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Other states are using advertising on their roads as a way to pump up revenues.

On the Tobin Bridge into Boston, Portland-based Banknorth has a three-year contract to sponsor the Fast Lane tollbooths. The deal generates about $275,000 per year, according to David Stein of Travelers Marketing, the Massachusetts consulting firm that manages the marketing program.

The Massachusetts Turnpike also generates revenues beyond tolls. The turnpike’s Web site reads: “The Turnpike Authority offers endless sponsorship opportunities relating to our visitor information centers, toll booths, toll receipts, toll collector handouts, Fast Lane statement inserts and www.masspike.com.”

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority generated almost $600,000 in 2004 from sponsorship deals, according to spokesman Doug Hanchett.

E-ZPass also will be rolled out this year in New Hampshire. There, the state transportation commissioner is supporting a bill to include advertising in the new system as long as the revenue is spent on road improvements.

If the Maine Turnpike Authority ever accepts advertising, it won’t be on billboards, Paradee said.

One barrier is Maine’s ban on billboards; another is the concern that riders’ views would be tarnished.

“It’s a relatively scenic highway,” Paradee said, “and we tend to like to keep it that way.”

Still, the lure of advertising dollars could prove hard to resist. Under E-ZPass, the Turnpike Authority will issue statements to customers more regularly. Ads would help defray the cost, Paradee says.

“In our world, there’s not too many places you can go without being subjected to some kind of advertising,” Paradee said. “I think it’s becoming more acceptable.”



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