The time is perfect for Maine residents to contemplate the future of toll collection on the Maine Turnpike.

We are about to see $40 million spent on the latest effort to collect this tax, which was supposed to end in 1982 (once the initial bonds to build the turnpike were paid off). The Legislature used the gas price of the day to justify allowing the tollbooths to remain. Certainly that reasoning does not exist today.

Imagine if those tollbooths had been removed as planned over 30 years ago. Would anyone be advocating that we start building tollbooths today, like the new one planned in York?

And then consider the history of toll-collection efforts. Is there any question that toll collection is still a mess? Is there any doubt that the Maine Turnpike Authority will continue to need cash to reconfigure booths?

We have a state suddenly flush with cash, a turnpike authority also flush with cash, and gas just keeps getting cheaper.

The MTA will tell you that modern toll-collection methods are efficient and paid mostly by those from away. I would argue that adding a few pennies to the fuel tax would be far more efficient, and relying on others to pay our bills is just plain rude.

Augusta has an opportunity here to trim some “quasi” government, fulfill a long-forgotten promise, set a more efficient and well-funded long-term course for all Maine roads and to be nice to our neighbors. That’s a legacy we should all be able to live with.

I’d prefer to see that happen right now, before the MTA starts moving more earth and pouring more concrete.

Gary Plouff

Portland


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