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Maine Turnpike Turns 70

Maine Turnpike: Thinking Ahead FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 13, 2017
Erin Courtney
CONTACT: Dan Morin (MTA)

Maine Turnpike Turns 70

Marking seven decades of safe, swift, and scenic travel

The Maine Turnpike Authority will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the opening of the Maine Turnpike’s first phase, the 47-mile, Kittery-to-Portland superhighway on December 13. Before the Maine Turnpike opened on December 13, 1947, it could take half a day to drive from Portland to Kittery. After the Turnpike opened, only 47 minutes.
What began as a vision shared by Maine legislators in 1940 and was then delayed by America’s entry into World War II, became a reality in 1947 as the Maine Turnpike debuted as the nation’s second superhighway and immediately set a number of historic firsts.
Maine’s first mile-a-minute highway (click for video)
The Turnpike was Maine’s first roadway with a posted 60 mph speed limit. Few New Englanders in 1947 had ever driven that fast.
New England’s first and only the nation’s second superhighway  (click for video)
The first section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, defined as a superhighway for its double two-lane limited access roadways separated by a wide median strip, opened in 1940. The Maine Turnpike was America’s second modern superhighway.
America’s first toll highway to pay its own way (click for video)
The Maine Turnpike was financed completely with the issue of revenue bonds purchased by investors and repaid from toll collections. In seven decades, tolls have paid for all of the Turnpike’s maintenance and improvements without ever having to rely on state or federal funding.
America’s first asphalt superhighway (click for video)
Some experts say that the Maine Turnpike was the first highway in the world to be built entirely with asphalt. Concrete was considered the only way to go before Maine’s superhighway set the new standard.
The original smooth, straight stretch of roadway proved to be such a popular success, that in 1953 the Turnpike Authority sought to extend the pike northward. On December 13, 1955, the 66-mile, Portland-to-Gardiner extension, including the four-mile Falmouth spur, was added to the state’s transportation infrastructure.
“With seventy years of history, more when you consider that the legislature created the Maine Turnpike Authority in 1941, it is important to remember the thousands of Maine people whose hard work is responsible for the Turnpike of today,” said Maine Turnpike Authority Executive Director Peter Mills.
“From the lawmakers who conceived the original idea to the investors who purchased the bonds to the engineers, contractors, and construction workers who designed and built the roadway and its bridges to the thousands of Maine Turnpike employees who have maintained and managed the roadway across seven decades—there have been so many involved who deserve our recognition and thanks,” Mills added.
Seventy years later, the Maine Turnpike continues to be a proving ground for new highway engineering, construction, and technological advancement. In recent years, the Maine Turnpike Authority has added Open Road Tolling systems that process electronic EZPass transactions as drivers cruise through at highway speeds. On-ramp and off-ramp configurations have been upgraded with newer, safer designs. Last year, the Lewiston exit was rebuilt with the state’s first Single Point Urban Interchange, a design developed to move large volumes of traffic more safely and efficiently within a limited space.
“All of people who work and have worked with the Maine Turnpike Authority share in the credit for what the Maine Turnpike has become today,” said Mr. Mills. “We also thank our customers, now averaging 385,000 per day, for their continued confidence and support. We look forward to another 70 years of providing safe, swift, and scenic travel to drivers in Maine.”

The Maine Turnpike Authority is a quasi-state agency created by the Maine Legislature in1941. Because of its prominence and reputation, it has been designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Maine Turnpike Authority thanks all motorists for their patience during Turnpike improvements, and as always, thank you for driving safely.

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