The Maine Turnpike Authority’s controversial, years-long quest to build a high-speed toll plaza in York may end a few hundred feet north of the existing plaza on land it already owns. The new proposal has the tentative support of York residents who have opposed other options.

Consultants who presented the plan to the authority’s board of directors on Thursday said the plan is feasible, but they did not say how much it would cost.

Residents in York who have long opposed plan to replace the 45-year-old toll plaza with a much larger plaza elsewhere in the town say they are hopeful about this latest plan because it appears it would have the least impact on the town.

“We are cautiously optimistic that they will proceed in building a new plaza within property they already own so they won’t take any new land,” said Joan Jarvis, a spokeswoman for Think Again, a local group that has opposed the relocation of the York toll plaza.

She said, however, that the proposed plaza appears larger than necessary and needs further scrutiny.

The town wants the plaza rebuilt at its current location, said state Rep. Lydia Blume, D-York, calling the most recent proposal a “good sign.”

Jacobs Engineering, which the authority hired to develop plans to replace aging plaza, recommended that the new plaza have three high-speed toll lanes in each direction. Those lanes would essentially use the current highway lanes. Cash lanes – four northbound and five southbound – would be off to the sides.

Officials from the engineering company said it would be feasible to build the plaza 400 feet north of the current plaza. Unlike in previous proposals, no houses would have to be removed for the project. Almost all of the property is owned by the authority.

Peter Mills, the authority’s executive director, said the consultants will provide a cost estimate in late February. He said the consultants will also study building the plaza in a different location so the board can decide between two options.

“We are trying to boil this down to simple choices so the board can make a clear-cut decision,” he said.

The Maine Turnpike Authority is modernizing all of its toll plazas

The new toll plaza in York would be similar to the open-road toll plaza in New Gloucester and on Interstate 95 in Hampton, New Hampshire. Open-road tolling allows drivers with E-ZPass transponders to pass through toll plazas at highway speeds while giving other drivers the option of paying cash.

Mills said construction of the York toll plaza replacement probably won’t begin until 2017.

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