Maine Turnpike toll connector gets go-ahead

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 7/31/2017

A new law in Maine sets in motion plans to construct a five-mile toll road in the Portland area.

The Legislature has acted to override the veto of Gov. Paul LePage in an effort to reduce congestion in Gorham and surrounding communities. House lawmakers voted 125-18 to override. The Senate followed suit on a 35-0 vote.

State lawmakers previously voted unanimously to approve the legislation before LePage used his veto authority in an attempt to defeat the measure. Previously LD905, the new law requires the Maine Turnpike Authority to build a connector road from south Gorham to the Maine Turnpike.

Before the project can move forward, however, the law mandates that an evaluation of reasonable alternatives must be completed.

LePage said although he supports the idea of a connector road in the area he could not endorse plans to operate the road under the Turnpike Authority. The governor said he prefers the project be done through general obligation bonds.

“Maine citizens already pay enough in tolls when they travel in certain areas of the state, and we should not add additional toll costs to Maine citizens and business,” LePage wrote in a veto message.

Rep. Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, said the project to construct a connector from Route 114 in south Gorham to an interchange on Interstate 95 in Scarborough is an opportunity to benefit the area’s commerce and communities.

“In Gorham, our village is intersected by routes 114 and 25; for Maine they are major thoroughfares,” McLean said in written remarks. “To reduce the traffic by 25 or even 50 percent could have a very positive impact on our downtown.”

The MTA is allowed to issue bonds of up to $150 million to cover costs to plan, design and construct the project. The bonds would be paid off from tolls to access the connector.

The connector’s path would be determined in a study.

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