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Journal Tribune
Updated November 9, 2019
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Maine Turnpike awards $39.5 million contract for York tollbooth

Southbound traffic begins to increase on a Friday afternoon at the York Toll Plaza. Staff photo by Gordon Chibroski

The Maine Turnpike Authority plans to begin construction of a new tollbooth plaza in York next month.

Reed and Reed, a construction firm from Woolwich, was awarded a $39.5 million for the three-year project on Thursday.

The company will build a new tollbooth plaza about a mile and a half north of the present tolls. The new configuration will have three high-speed electronic tolling lanes and separate lanes for cash payments on both sides of the highway. Vehicles are expected to keep moving through the area while the plaza is under construction.

The York toll plaza collects $60 million a year and, as the first toll on the Maine Turnpike, is the central reason two-thirds of toll revenue is paid by drivers from out of state headed into Maine, the Turnpike Authority said in a statement Thursday.

The Turnpike has three high-speed toll lanes, called “open road tolling” in New Gloucester, West Gardiner and on the Falmouth Spur connection to Interstate 295. Reed and Reed is presently constructing an electronic toll at exit 44, where the Turnpike connects to I-295 south of Portland.

Turnpike Authority officials say the current plaza, built in the 1960s, is outdated, “held together with used parts,” in an unsafe position and sinking into clay soil.

York residents, however, have fought the Turnpike’s replacement plan for a decade. Opponents said they were concerned about environmental damage and unconvinced the Turnpike Authority proved it needed a cash and electronic plaza, instead of a cheaper all-electronic tolling option.

A Superior Court judge in July upheld a Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit for the project that was appealed by opponents of toll construction.

The Turnpike Authority also received construction bids from Sargent Corp. and Cianbro Corp. for the plaza, said Turnpike Authority spokeswoman Erin Courtney.

A contract with Reed and Reed needs to be finalized before officials have a firm construction timeline, but it could start as early as mid-November, Courtney said.

Although vehicles are expected to continue using the roadway during construction, traffic might be affected by temporary travel lanes and periodic stoppages for blasting, depending on the project phase, the Turnpike Authority said. Traffic will be slowed to 60 mph during construction. The plaza is expected to be complete by June 2021.

The new plaza, plus construction on the Piscataqua River Bridgebetween Kittery and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is expected to create travel headaches, especially during heavy summer traffic.

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