We've got a problem on the Maine Turnpike and it needs to be fixed.

On my way to Massachusetts on the Friday leading up to the Fourth of July week, traffic was backed up at the York tolls for miles. I mean MILES. All the way to I-495 in Massachusetts. There's no denying Maine is Vacationland, but we can't handle this influx of tourists on our highways anymore and there's a simple solution that could help ease things. Tear down the toll booths on the Maine Turnpike.

Toll booths are an antiquated system of toll collection, yet we still hang onto them for some reason. No one wants to see anyone lose their job, but sometimes there are just better ways. It's been a long time since there was a man in a shack in Old Orchard Beach who would wait for a train to come to lower the crossing gate.

Ken Hendricksen via YouTube

Times change. Technology progresses and like automated crossing gates we now have automated toll taking where you don't even have to stop to pay the toll. In fact, the Maine Turnpike has been using electronic toll taking for over 20 years, yet the tollbooths remain.

Massachusetts figured it out and eliminated all toll booths in favor of electronic toll taking. If a vehicle doesn't have an EZ-Pass transponder, a picture of the license plate is taken and a bill is sent.

Maine has this technology as well. New Gloucester and the Falmouth Spur have what's called "open road tolling" that lets drivers continue without slowing down to pay the toll. Soon a third open road toll collection will open where I-295 merges with the Turnpike in South Portland. Yet at all these locations, the open road toll collection sits between toll booths.

The Maine Turnpike is planning to build a open road toll collection system at the big bottleneck at York Tolls, but residents of York don't seem to like that idea very much and have held up construction with court appeals asking that the state make the plaza an all electronic toll collection with no toll booths and no stopping. The Maine Turnpike says that's not financially feasible because they would have to send bills to anyone who doesn't have an EZ-Pass. So this is what they're going to build instead.

Maine Turnpike Authority
Maine Turnpike Authority

Open road tolling is great, so spend the money. We bet a lot of people would rather pay a more expensive toll and keep moving than sit in a 20 mile backup. Let's unclog the roads by tearing down all the tollbooths and take all tolls electronically.


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