With the flip of a switch, the Maine Turnpike Authority will activate a new high-speed toll plaza early Wednesday in York that officials hope will ease delays on the highway.

The switchover to the new toll plaza, about a mile-and-a-half north of the existing one, will be instantaneous at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, but turnpike officials say it will be about a year until the old toll plaza is completely gone and highway lanes are realigned and regraded.

Until then, southbound drivers who use the new high-speed toll lanes still will have to slow down while passing through tollbooth lanes at the old toll plaza, initially the center five booths. Those heading north will go through the four tollbooth lanes to the drivers’ right. In both cases, drivers will not have to stop at the tollbooths, but turnpike officials said they are being asked to reduce speed to 10 mph to safely go through what they call “dormant” tollbooths.

The demolition of the old tollbooths will start with the canopy, then the booths themselves and finally excavation of some of the lanes and areas adjacent to the turnpike, said Turnpike Authority spokeswoman Erin Courtney. She said the land around the old tollbooths was sinking – hence the need to relocate the new toll facility to the north. Some fill and pavement will need to be removed as the former toll area reverts to regular turnpike use, a process that’s expected to be completed by October 2022.

The Turnpike Authority warned of some slight delays Tuesday night associated with the switchover, with workers installing signs around the new facility to direct drivers either to the high-speed toll lanes or traditional tollbooths if they don’t have electronic tolling devices. Lanes will have to be closed while those signs are installed overhead, she said.

But officials hope the delays will be slight, and the work is taking place at a time when traffic is not expected to be heavy – a weekday night in mid-September – she said.

“People ask us if there’s going to be a ribbon-cutting and we say, ‘No, we’re trying to stay out of people’s way as much as possible,’ ” Courtney said.

Overall, the goal is to reduce congestion, she said. That will be accomplished by no longer requiring those with electronic toll-paying devices to even slow down from the existing speed limit of 70 mph for devices to record a vehicle’s passage. There will still be tollbooths to take cash from drivers without the devices, turnpike officials said.

Turnpike officials say it will be about a year until the old York toll plaza is completely gone and highway lanes are realigned and regraded. Photo courtesy Maine Turnpike Authority

Courtney said the area around the old tollbooths also contains some exits and entrances to the turnpike from York. Those will no longer be adding to the congestion at the tolls, she said, which should help smooth the traffic flow at the southern end of the turnpike.

To accommodate the first phase of the demolition work, the speed limit between the old toll plaza and the new one will be set at 55 mph initially, she said.

The demolition work will cost $12.2 million, and the new toll plaza cost about $40 million, Courtney said.


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