PORTLAND – The Maine Turnpike Authority’s directors voted unanimously Thursday to keep the current E-ZPass volume-based discount program indefinitely, maintaining a popular program that gives discounts to daily commuters.

The volume discounts for the heaviest users of E-ZPass were established when certain other tolls increased on Nov. 1.

“We listened to commuters very closely and recognized their concerns. It is clear that the new discount plan is popular and working well, so we are going to maintain it long-term,” said Executive Director Peter Mills.

Maine E-ZPass account holders who make at least 40 one-way trips a month get 50 percent off their bills for that month. Those who make 30 to 39 one-way trips get a 25 percent discount.

Maine E-ZPass rates are lower than cash tolls for most turnpike trips, even before the volume discount is applied.

The turnpike authority considered shrinking the discounts as of July 1, but decided against it since its revenues are sufficient to meet its maintenance and operating needs.

From November through April, revenue increased by 16 percent even as the number of vehicles dropped by 4 percent, the turnpike authority says.

“We’re raising just enough revenue to meet the needs of the turnpike while still allowing us to deliver a very substantial discount to commuters using a Maine E-ZPass,” Mills said.

Nearly 20,000 Maine E-ZPass devices have been sold since the new plan was adopted in November. As of the end of April, the number of E-ZPass holders totaled about 209,000, or one of every six Mainers.

Commuters, who previously paid a quarterly fee for unlimited use of the turnpike, objected to the idea that the volume discounts might shrink this summer.

Under the quarterly payment system, 22,000 commuters got discounts. More people get some sort of discount under the new plan. More than 27,000 Maine E-ZPass commuters got the 50 percent discount in April. Another 9,600 received the 25 percent discount.

 

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@pressherald.com