Maine Turnpike commuters angry over increase

Posted Sept. 15, 2012, at 12:48 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 15, 2012, at 3:09 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Commuters who use the Maine Turnpike are getting letters explaining the upcoming toll increase, and some of them are discovering that their rates will double.

Hundreds of daily commuters will see some of the biggest toll increases effective Nov. 1 as the flat-rate commuter pass is replaced by a volume-based discount system. The volume-based discount kicks in when motorists use the turnpike more than 70 times a month.

Marsha Siviski, who lives in Falmouth and works in Saco, tells the Portland Press Herald that she has been paying $110 every three months. As of Nov. 1, that will jump to $210.

Maine Turnpike Authority spokesman Dan Morin said he understands commuters’ frustration but says the goal is a “fair and equitable toll rate for all users.”

About 23,000 motorists currently use the commuter pass, but the new program is expected to hurt only about 2,000, or about 9 percent, of them, Morin said.

All told, motorists traveling the full length of the Maine Turnpike will pay 40 percent more, with cash increases of 50 cents to a dollar at three toll plazas.

Turnpike Director Peter Mills said the existing commuter pass system was based on rates from the 1950s that have not kept pace with inflation since then. He told WCSH-TV that the deep discount goes away but that others who never received discounts will now see smaller increases.

“There will be a lot of people who will get a discount that never got one before. We will probably not get a thank-you note from them and that will be fine. But the system will be fair,” he said, noting that the volume discount is available to all E-Zpass users.

Nonetheless, many commuter pass users are angry.

Joe Thibeault pays about $30 a month to commute on the Maine Turnpike between his home in Saco and his office in Portsmouth, N.H. Starting in November, he will pay $70 a month.

“I was shocked,” he said Friday. “They didn’t even phase this in. When anything increases by more than 100 percent, you’re going to have some angry people.”

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