E-ZPass travel at the junction of interstates 95 and 295 will be getting a bit … easier.

The Maine Turnpike Authority announced last week that construction has begun on a $30 million Open Road Tolling plaza in West Gardiner that will allow E-ZPass drivers to cruise through at highway speeds while sensors collect the toll electronically.

People who prefer to pay with cash will be able to do so at staffed toll booths, according to a Maine Turnpike Authority news release.

The plaza, which is scheduled to open in 2021, will have two Open Road Tolling  lanes — both north- and southbound — and three cash lanes in each direction. It will be located about 700 feet north of the existing facility on I-295.

“It doesn’t really affect West Gardiner’s businesses or rest areas,” said Greg Couture, chairman of West Gardiner’s Board of Selectmen, but noted it would be helpful during rush hour. “The congestion can be pretty bad.”

A total of 354,641 cars traveled through the current toll plaza in May, according to a Maine Turnpike Authority report, which amounted to $724,438.50 in revenue.

The project will include widening and realignment of the road and exit ramps, construction of the toll plaza and a tunnel. Software at the plazas also needed updating, according to Erin Courtney, the public outreach and marketing manager for Maine Turnpike Authority, because it is currently a 2000s-era version.

Work taking place now for repairs on Exit 103 on I-295 to widen the pier, replace the concrete deck and guardrail improvements is expected to be finished in the fall. Stillwater-based Sargent Corporation is undertaking the project. Courtney said an access road is being constructed so the project can begin.

While there might be times when one less lane will be available, she said, for the most part traffic will move as normal.

Since the number of cash lanes will stay the same, the number of people working at the plaza will remain the same, Courtney said.

The West Gardiner location is the final piece of a seven-year project to convert all six of the Turnpike’s mainline toll plazas to Open Road Tolling collection.


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