Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The Maine Turnpike Authority will spend the next month studying whether a more modern toll plaza can be rebuilt at its existing location in York.
Turnpike authority officials in March proposed relocating the plaza to one of four possible sites north of the current plaza. York residents and town officials opposed the new sites, attended public hearings, held a protest rally and scheduled a non-binding vote today on the relocation project.
The turnpike authority's board of directors this week directed its staff and its consulting engineers, HNTB Corp., to study the costs and issues related to rebuilding a new plaza at the current site at mile marker 7.
Engineers will report back to the board in June, turnpike spokesman Dan Paradee said. No decisions on the report or the overall project will be made until at least mid-summer, he said.
Turnpike staff members and engineers met Thursday with a committee of York residents, selectmen, town staff and state representatives to discuss the project. Members of Think Again, a group formed in opposition to the toll plaza relocation, say they hope the turnpike authority will take a serious look at the current site.
''That was a huge step from where we were,'' said Joan Jarvis, a member of Think Again and a York resident. ''We still have a long way to go.''
The turnpike authority wants to replace the 39-year-old toll plaza, which is just north of the York interchange. It cannot accommodate an expansion or new technology, it's located on a curve, and it's slowly sinking because it was built on wetlands.
In March, the turnpike authority announced four sites under consideration for a more modern, $35 million facility. Each would result in the loss of at least one York resident's home.
Turnpike engineers have already studied the possibility of rebuilding the plaza at the current site, Paradee said. The safest possible facility should meet several federal highway safety criteria, and the current plaza location does not meet the standards. Paradee said it will be up to the turnpike authority's directors to decide whether it's acceptable to fall short of some of the federal highway safety standards.
The town of York supports rebuilding at the current site, said Selectman Chairman Mike Estes. Last month, selectmen passed a resolution in opposition to the four proposed sites.
The town of Ogunquit passed a resolution in opposition to the sites in April.
Staff Writer Anne Gleason can be contacted at 282-8229 or at: