Maine lawmakers consider new tolls to bridge gap in road funding

| 10/9/2007

To the dismay of Maine’s governor, a state legislative panel has authorized a feasibility study on whether to add tolls to the state’s interstates to help generate revenue for roads and bridges.

The Transportation Committee voted 12-1 to ask the Maine Turnpike Authority to conduct the study and report back to them early next year.

Car and truck drivers already are charged a fee to use the 109-mile turnpike between York and Augusta. The other 280 miles of interstate highways in the state, however, are free of charge.

A few hours after the committee made its decision, Gov. John Baldacci came out blasting the plan.

“I oppose the idea of adding tolls to Maine’s existing interstate highway system,” Baldacci said in a written statement.

He also said toll advocates shouldn’t hold their breath about adding more pay-as-you-go miles in the state.

“I can assure you it will not happen during my term in office,” Baldacci said.

The governor is calling for other solutions to be considered.

“We must find every possible efficiency in the way we manage our transportation network, and we must make sure that our current resources are being used effectively,” he said.

Committee leaders said they would consider all cost-saving and funding alternatives, including tolls. A feasibility study will allow them to do that, they said.

The state is facing a shortfall in highway funding that is estimated at $2.2 billion during the next 10 years, The Associated Press reported.

Adding tolls to help eat into that gap would require authorization from the Maine Legislature and the U.S. Congress.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maine in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor