The Maine Turnpike Authority will increase tolls to drive an extra $17 million in revenue.  Steve Collins/ Sun Journal

For the first time in nine years, the Maine Turnpike Authority will hike its tolls starting in November.

The increase will bring in more than $17 million in extra revenue annually, officials said, and help make up the $60 million financial shortfall caused by decreased traffic during the pandemic.

Among the changes going into effect Nov. 1 is an increase in the toll for passenger cars passing the new toll booths in York from $3 to $4.

Peter Mills, the Maine Turnpike Authority executive director, told a public hearing that change alone will generate more than $14 million in additional revenue, with people from other states paying 87% of it.

The turnpike authority is also raising the Maine E-Z Pass rate by 4% from 7.7 cents per mile to 8 cents per mile. Other fees also are rising.

Overall, Mills said, about 71% of the increased tolls would be paid by people and companies from other states.

The turnpike authority had planned to increase tolls in 2028 but decided to do it sooner to offset the revenue decline created by diminished traffic starting in March 2020 when COVID-19 smacked the economy and kept people home.

New tolls on the Maine Turnpike take effect on Nov. 1. Maine Turnpike Authority

Officials pointed out that the turnpike authority opted to plunge forward with all of its planned improvements despite the sinking revenue in order to provide jobs and do what it could to keep Maine’s economy alive during a rough period.

Mills said staff members looked at “a broad range of ways that tolls can be adjusted” before settling on ones that brought in enough revenue and put on as little burden as possible on Mainers.

About half of the nation’s toll roads increased their fees during the pandemic and nearly 90% of them have hiked tolls since Maine’s last increase in 2012, Mills said.

Mills said that Maine’s turnpike authority continues to offer one of the lowest rates per mile of any U.S. toll road.

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