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Poll shows majority of voters concerned ...
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Poll shows majority of voters concerned with condition of Maine’s highways and bridges

According to MBTA President Scott Leach, the poll results demonstrate what he calls a “disconnect” between voter perceptions and legislative priorities.

According to a fall 2006 poll, 91 percent of Maine voters said there were “significant” or “very significant” problems with the condition of Maine’s highways and only five percent think the state’s highways are in good shape. These were just two of the surprising results of a survey of 500 Maine voters by Command Research commissioned by the Maine Better Transportation Association.

“The poll shows overwhelming evidence that Maine people want substantial and widespread remedies when confronted with facts about the current condition of the state’s roads and bridges,” said MBTA President Scott Leach.

What Mainers think
The poll indicates a prevailing concern among Maine voters about the effect that failing highways and bridges have on safety, the state’s economy and Maine’s ability to retain younger members of its workforce. This concern was heightened when respondents were prompted with facts about the state’s highway system.

• 96 percent of those surveyed said they were concerned that the number of Maine roads judged to be in poor pavement condition had gone from seven percent in 2002 to 25 percent today. Thirty-four percent were very concerned.

• 97 percent were concerned that their children and grandchildren are at risk because of the poor quality of Maine’s bridges and roads.

• 97 percent were concerned when they learned that 90 percent of all freight moves in and out by truck and that good roads are the backbone of keeping Maine competitive.

• 97 percent were concerned that Maine is the only state in the Northeast that has lost construction jobs over the last few years. 56 percent were very concerned.

• 98 percent expressed concern that Maine is losing an opportunity to keep its young people in the state with well paying jobs.

Making it personal
Some of the most interesting information gleaned from the survey was just how closely Mainers have felt the impact of potholes, crumbling shoulders and the outdated design of the highways and bridges they use every day.

“We were particularly surprised,” said Leach, “by the number of people who were not surprised that the average Mainer [50 percent] has over $250 worth of damage done to their car.”

According to MBTA Executive Director Maria Fuentes, the poll results demonstrate what he calls a “disconnect” between voter perceptions and legislative priorities. “If we compare the concerns Mainers have about the safety and economic impact of the state’s failing highways and bridges and the funding priorities at the state legislature, it’s easy to see that something needs to be done to close that gap,” said Leach.

He said MBTA intends to use the poll results to help it shape the public debate on the need to find new funding sources for highway and bridge maintenance. Said Leach, “It’s pretty clear what needs to be done. We need to take a leadership role and work with the legislature to redefine how this generation tackles all the challenges ahead.”

To illustrate his point, Leach points to one particularly sobering statistic from the poll: 45 percent of Mainers surveyed knew of poor road conditions that had caused an accident for them, a member of their family or a friend. “That’s a scary thing, when it gets that personal that you realize that your safety and the safety of your loved ones is at risk,” said Leach. “That really makes the need to find real solutions all the more urgent.”

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