The Maine Turnpike Authority plans to begin construction of a new tollbooth plaza in York next month.

Reed and Reed, a construction firm from Woolwich, was awarded a $39.5 million contract for the three-year project Thursday.

The company will build a new tollbooth plaza about a mile and a half north of the present tolls on the Maine Turnpike. The new configuration will have three high-speed electronic tolling lanes and separate lanes for cash payments on both sides of the highway. Vehicles are expected to keep moving through the area while the plaza is under construction.

The York toll plaza collects $60 million a year and, as the first northbound toll on the turnpike, is the central reason two-thirds of that revenue is paid by out-of-state drivers headed into Maine, the Maine Turnpike Authority said in a statement Thursday.

The turnpike has three high-speed toll lanes, called “open road tolling” in New Gloucester, West Gardiner and on the Falmouth Spur connection to Interstate 295. Reed and Reed is building an electronic toll at exit 44, where the turnpike connects to I-295 south of Portland.

Turnpike authority officials say the current plaza, built in the 1960s, is outdated, “held together with used parts,” in an unsafe position and sinking into clay soil.

York residents, however, have fought the turnpike authority’s replacement plan for a decade. Opponents said they were concerned about environmental damage and unconvinced the agency demonstrated it needed a cash and electronic plaza, instead of a cheaper all-electronic tolling option.

A Superior Court judge in July upheld a Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit for the project that had been appealed by opponents of the new plaza.

The turnpike authority also received construction bids from Sargent Corp. and Cianbro Corp. for the plaza, authority spokeswoman Erin Courtney said.

A contract with Reed and Reed needs to be finalized before officials have a firm construction timeline, but it could start as early as mid-November, Courtney said.

Although vehicles are expected to continue using the road during construction, traffic might be affected by temporary travel lanes and periodic stoppages for blasting, depending on the project phase, the turnpike authority said. Traffic will be slowed to 60 mph during construction. The plaza is expected to be complete by June 2021.

The new plaza, plus construction on the Piscataqua River Bridge between Kittery and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is expected to create travel headaches, especially during heavy summer traffic.

Peter McGuire can be reached at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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