July 19, 2015

Fixing Maine's roads and bridges - By Sen. Bill Diamond

Summer is finally here and with its arrival comes a new round of road construction projects. As a member of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, I know that keeping Maine’s roads and overall transportation network in working order is no easy task. Travelling Mainers and visitors alike depend on the quality and upkeep of our roads, rail, air, and ferry services, and to a large extent our economy depends on them, too.
That’s why I’m happy to announce that this November, Mainers will have a chance to vote on a transportation bond to provide $85 million in additional funding for Maine DOT’s planned infrastructure improvements. Municipalities in our senate district are currently scheduled for multiple construction, maintenance, and paving projects resulting in millions of dollars of needed highway and local road improvements. Local projects include bridge repairs, bike and pedestrian upgrades, new traffic signals, and increasing drainage capacity. This bond funding will go toward already identified priority projects in the Maine DOT three-year work plan.

Statewide, the funding is divided into two major categories: $68 million is allocated for roads and bridges, while $17 million will go toward ports, harbors, marine transportation, aviation, freight and passenger railroads, and bicycle and pedestrian trails.

Maine’s aging roads and bridges have been the focus of ongoing study over the last few years. In 2007, Maine DOT released the first Keeping our Bridges Safe Report which outlined the needs of Maine’s network of more than 2,700 state owned bridges. This report was updated last year and recommended additional funding for Maine to keep up with necessary improvements. The 2014 report notes that while the rate of structurally deficient bridges has dropped both nationally and throughout New England, in Maine the rate of structurally deficient bridges is higher today than it was in 2012. This is a trend that must be reversed and this bond aims to do just that.

Of course, no Maine transportation plan would be complete without addressing other modes of transportation. The $17 million for multimodal facilities and infrastructure will provide funding for the ferries that island communities depend on, as well as Maine’s shipping ports, railways, and airports. Neglecting these modes of transportation for passengers and commerce is simply not an option.

As we drive around on Maine roads this summer, I’m sure we’ll all have the time and opportunity to reflect on the importance of maintaining and improving our transportation network. While waiting in line to get through a construction zone can be an annoyance, the alternative is much worse. I hope that by approving this funding, we can start to reduce the roughly $525 each of us pays in extra vehicle repairs from driving on Maine roads every year.

If you are interested in looking at the complete three-year Maine DOT Work Plan, you can find it online at www.maine.gov/mdot. The website also offers an interactive feature which allows a search for projects by municipality. Please feel free to contact me at diamondhollyd@aol.com or (207) 287-1515 with any feedback or concerns that you may have.

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