After proposing a toll increase in June and holding six public meetings, the Maine Turnpike Authority board is expected to make a final decision on a new toll structure during its Aug. 16 meeting.

The authority operates the 109-mile toll highway through southern Maine.

The board gave preliminary approval to the plan earlier this month, under which tolls for some cash customers would increase between 28% and 50%. Average rates for Maine E-ZPass users would increase 10%.

Peter Mills, executive director of the Turnpike, said any final toll decision will be a result of an extremely public process unparalleled in the Turnpike's history.

"We started the process with a detailed proposal including 10 different options and invited the public to comment and make suggestions," Mills said. "The public's input is an important part of this process."

The new toll structure is expected to increase the Turnpike's revenue by $21 million per year to continue a 30-year plan to maintain and rehabilitate the authority's network of bridges, interchanges and pavement, and pay off existing debt.

In addition to paying off debt, an increase is necessary to meet debt service requirements, Mills has said.

Under the new plan, cash tolls in York would increase to $3 from $2; New Gloucester and West Gardiner mainline toll plazas will each be raised 50 cents for tolls of $2.25 and $1.75, respectively; and the cost to travel northbound from Exit 19 in Wells and southbound from Exit 63 in Gray will each increase 50 cents to $1.50.

The authority is rated double-A-minus by Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings. All three assign stable outlooks.

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