The Maine Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing Monday on a proposal to relocate the York toll plaza that continues to draw opposition from town leaders and residents.

Many residents have sparred with the Maine Turnpike Authority over plans for the new toll plaza, arguing the turnpike authority hasn’t fully considered an all-electronic collection system. But authority officials have said that type of system would result in millions of dollars in lost revenue annually.

The turnpike authority wants to build a $40 million toll plaza a mile and a half north of the existing one. The proposal calls for a 15-lane plaza with a mix of cash booths and electronic-pay lanes.

The two-part hearing will be held Monday. During the day, the DEP will receive testimony from the turnpike authority, town of York and a local opposition group formed nine years ago to oppose a new toll plaza. The public testimony portion of the hearing begins at 6 p.m. in the Kittery Community Center’s Star Theater.

The York Board of Selectmen in January voted to take $25,000 from its contingency account to prepare for the DEP hearing. Selectmen and the opposition group – called Think Again – Stop the York Toll Plaza Relocation – want to replace the existing York toll plaza with an all-electronic fee-collection system like the one used on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Both the town and Think Again were granted intervenor status for the DEP process. Think Again recently mailed postcards to town residents urging them to attend the hearing.

“We have heard this is a ‘small group’ opposed to the plan. It is not,” said Marshall Jarvis, spokesman for Think Again. “The community of York in general feels we don’t need to build a new plaza.”


Residents opposed to the new plaza have raised $25,000 to pay for professional advice and legal representation during their fight against the proposal.

The new plaza proposal, at mile 8.8, is the most practical in terms of safety, revenue and reducing traffic on secondary roads, according to the turnpike authority. It also has the least environmental impact and disruption to nearby residents, authority Executive Director Peter Mills said during a meeting with residents in October.

The current toll plaza at mile 7.3 has serious safety and operational problems, and building a new one at the same spot isn’t feasible, the authority says. According to its analysis, construction of the plaza complex would affect 1.5 acres of wetlands and would not harm sensitive vernal pools. There are no impacts to federally listed threatened or endangered species, according to its studies.

The authority will spend $450,000 on environmental mitigation, including a wildlife passage for threatened species on a road in Eliot. Recent studies show there would be little or no harmful air, noise or light impacts on nearby residents.

At meetings last year with turnpike officials, York residents doubted the findings and raised further concerns about the impact of the project on nearby conservation areas and the environment. Think Again members have raised concerns about the impact of noise, light and air pollution on people near the site of the proposed plaza.

Jarvis said an all-electronic system allows the turnpike authority to collect tolls through E-ZPass and sending bills to other drivers whose license plates would be photographed. Using that system would reduce crashes, traffic congestion and air pollution because there would be no barriers in the road and cars would not stop, he said.

Gov. Paul LePage wants to start shutting down the turnpike authority and eliminate all toll facilities on the turnpike except the York toll plaza. His bill to shut down the turnpike authority within the next decade was referred last week to the Legislature’s Transportation Committee.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:


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