Small towns along state roads have been notorious for adding to their coffers with speed traps. Now, the Maine Turnpike Authority may be setting up a revenue trap with a new policy at its cash toll booths.

Once, if the booth were unattended, drivers got a free pass. Signs would indicate to keep going. Now, if the toll taker is absent, signs command drivers to go online to pay, or face a violation. For toll scofflaws, state law allows for fines up to $500.

The honest driver who goes online to pay will face an annoying 20-minute task filling out a lengthy form, plus all the information needed to charge a credit card. Most drivers probably don’t bother, thinking a $1 toll won’t matter. This gives the authority the chance to turn a $1 toll into a $150 fine — a hefty return that doesn’t even require paying a policeman to hide in the bushes with a radar gun.

I wrote to the authority about this. It responded that even though it could technically cash in on unattended toll booths, it doesn’t.

Peter Mills of the authority wrote me back: “For a customer’s failure to pay at a cash booth that is temporarily unattended, the Turnpike does not charge a penalty.”

That’s nice to know, but a return of the “just keep going” signs would be much better.

Philip Blampied, Bryant Pond

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