Maine Trails, Apr - May '07
Inside Cover
President’s Message
Cover Story: Leading the Way
Conversations with the leadership


President’s Message
Some closing thoughts and thanks

By Scott Leach, MBTA President

I began my time as president of the Maine Better Transportation Association talking about transportation policy and funding, and it is no surprise that is how I am ending my term. If there's one thing that the budget shortfalls and massive cuts in MaineDOT's biennial work plan over the past 18 months have shown us, it is that we can't afford to stand on the sidelines and be reactive.

During the past several decades, Maine has watched passively as our transportation investments have declined. That decline increased so alarmingly during the past several years that even with a large $815 million transportation funding package on the table, we are not putting a dent in the backlog of aging highways and bridges. Maine desperately needs to redraw its map for the future and to develop innovative policy and new sources of funding that will ensure the future of Maine's transportation system.

In this issue of Maine Trails, you can read about several initiatives underway that show promise as we work with MaineDOT, the legislature, the governor and community leaders to redraw that map. First, there is the introduction of LD 1790, "An Act to Secure Maine's Transportation Future." The legislation is sponsored by Senator Dennis Damon (D-Hancock County) and is the only plan on the table that offers a long-term solution to our funding crisis. MBTA is advocating strongly for its passage. There is also MaineDOT's new 20-year plan titled "Connecting Maine." It's a document that takes a close look at the scarce funding resources for transportation in our state and the great need for investment in our transportation systems. While it doesn't come with a funding plan, we are hopeful that the Governor and MaineDOT will develop one after it completes its public input process.

External events during recent months only underscore the magnitude of this funding gap. This spring, gasoline passed the $3 per gallon mark, and Washington began calling for higher mileage standards on American cars. If we do nothing, revenues are going to decline even further. The MBTA needs to continue to press for a major overhaul of the Highway Fund and call for a restructuring of how Maine funds its transportation system. We need to continue our call for significant investments in our aging highways and bridges - or risk the increase in highway fatalities, the added cost to our citizens from rough roads and the harm to the economy that lack of investment will bring.

This issue of the magazine also kicks off the summer season with a look at the connection between transportation and tourism. With this industry becoming an ever larger sector of our economy, we need to make sure our transportation network is equipped to handle it. Even more important, tourism experts say, we need smooth roads, safe bridges, efficient buses, ferries and trains to continue to attract this lucrative market. As resources grow tighter, we have to continue to have a strong vision that will guide investment in transportation that serve many people with diverse interests - our residents, our businesses and visitors to the state.

In closing, I would like to say thank you to all the dedicated members and volunteers who make up this association, to the legislators and to our partners at Maine Turnpike Authority and MaineDOT. The MBTA board has been tremendous this past year, and I want to thank each of you, as well as MBTA's Executive Director Maria Fuentes and the entire staff. Working so closely with all of you, I have learned just how lucky our organization is to have such a great team working on the big issues that face us.

I also want to thank Lauren Corey for her assistance, and the many volunteers who serve on various committees. We are so fortunate to have such a diverse, enthusiastic and active membership. Lauren is going to make a great president, and I know you will step up to the plate to help Lauren as you did me. I would also like to thank my employer, Lane Construction Corp. - and in particular Rodney Lane - for their support during the past year. Rodney filled in many times back at the office when I had association business. Last but not least, I want to thank my wife, Susan, for her support and understanding. When I have to spend more time on association business, she needs to pick up the slack at home, and I greatly appreciate it.

I look forward to seeing you at future meetings, and am honored to have served as president of such a great organization. Thank you all for a great year!


Cover Story: Leading the Way

By Douglas Rooks

For the past six years, tourism has been Maine's leading industry - surpassing wood products and papermaking as a share of the gross state product (GSP). But in many ways Maine's tourism industry has held a prominent place in the nation's heart for a long time, observes Vaughn Stinson, president of the Maine Tourism Association. "The appeal of Maine is in many ways the same both for the people who live here and those who want to visit us. Safe neighborhoods, beautiful surroundings and communities that care about each other are what we have in common," he said.

State planners who began the push to develop tourism-friendly transportation policy, including the concept of "car-free vacations," in earlier administrations are beginning to see the fruits of these investments. The process has not only diversified the travel modes the state considers important, but it can have mutual benefits for both tourism and transportation sectors. Ron Roy, director of MaineDOT's Office of Passenger Transportation, said, "The initiatives we're studying have their start in congestion relief and commuter travel, but they will all benefit the tourism industry as well," he said. "It does fit together."

At the start of transportation planning for tourism is the reality that most visitors come here by car, and initiatives to maintain and improve roads and bridges directly affect visitors' views of Maine and their willingness to visit again.

"Air travel is a huge factor in tourism elsewhere," said Stinson, "but Maine doesn't have the airport volume or the population to support a major hub. Plus, the experience of getting through airports and security is not that pleasant these days. Most people prefer another route to start their vacation." Not that the economic impact of airports is minor. Ron Roy points out that $1.5 billion in annual GSP comes from airports, and $865 million from Portland alone.

Herb Thomson, spokesman for Maine- DOT, confirms Stinson's view of visitation to Maine. "Most of our tourists are coming from the New England states and New York. Day trips are a big part of our appeal, and those people are mostly going to come by car."

A smooth ride
What this means, for tourism professionals, is that highways need to be smooth and safe year-round so that visitors' experience of Maine is pleasant.

"If you have to dodge potholes on your way up the coast," said Cathy Goodwin, president of the Greater York Chamber of Commerce, "you may decide to come back anyway, but we're facing a higher hurdle in trying to distinguish ourselves from other destinations."

Chris Fogg, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said that good roads are particularly important for upstate venues such as Mount Desert Island, that has both a huge tourist draw and a short season.

"We have some challenges, no doubt about it," he said. "The gateway to the island for most visitors is Route 1A from Bangor, and the lack of shoulders and good pavement makes an impression." (A MaineDOT reconstruction project on this road began last year.) On the island itself, Fogg said that he's aware of the contrast between "the pristine nature of Acadia National Park, which is one of the best-maintained parks in the whole National Park system," and the often-bumpy roads that Transportation's role in tourism development Mount Desert Island is a tourism/transportation hub with a port, bus system, network of trails, confluence of highways and an airport nearby. mainedot photo Leading the way 12 Maine Trails n APRIL/MAY 2007 link villages like Northeast Harbor to the rest of the island. "There's no doubt that people notice the contrast," he said.

They get here, now what?
Getting tourists to Maine is one thing, but allowing them to move around while they're here is another issue entirely. Mount Desert Island is also host to one of the most successful recent initiatives to get people out of their cars. The Island Explorer free bus system has been running since 1999, and now carries more than 340,000 passengers per season. The bus now runs from June to October. Roy points out that, while the service began as an initiative to reduce congestion and remove large recreational vehicles from park roads, it's routinely used by island residents to reach work and shopping.

The Island Explorer concept, where MaineDOT pays for the buses and local municipalities and non-profit groups run the service, has been so successful that it has spawned a number of other seasonal bus systems, including winter runs in Bethel and Carabassett Valley, and a new summer network - the Shoreline Explorer - in York and Wells that was launched in 2006. Plans for a transit system in Freeport also are ready to go, Roy said, when the town decides to make the commitment.

Transportation does make a difference in the experience visitors have once they reach Maine, and that extends from excursion trains to ferries, buses, trolleys, bike trails and walking paths. Vaughn Stinson points out that the Casco Bay Lines ferry network in Portland Harbor, that link island residents to the mainland, also provide a daytime activity welcomed by visitors.

Passenger trains returned in 2001 with the first trips by the Downeaster, and they have been expanded by excursion runs along the Rockland Branch to Brunswick. A projected service on a portion of the Calais Branch in Ellsworth could bring trains to the MDI gateway.

Meanwhile, trail advocates are trying to expand networks that began in Portland more than a decade ago and now include portions of the Mountain Division branch, trails in northern and western Maine, and may soon include an 87-mile section of the Calais Branch to Machias. This summer, MaineDOT expects to complete the seven-mile Kennebec River Rail Trail from Augusta to Gardiner. Usage of all these trails has usually exceeded expectations from residents and visitors alike.

"People are looking for a healthy experience that gets them out of their cars and into the countryside," said Cathy Goodwin. "Anywhere we can tell visitors about walking and biking opportunities, we see a lot of interest. It's a different way to spend a day, and you see a lot of things you can't see from a car."

Coordinating these various modes of transportation is a new challenge for MaineDOT, but one that Herb Thomson sees as a significant part of the agency's job. "If we're going to serve the public, and not just build things, we have to be more aware of the uses people have for transportation, and how their expectations are changing," he said.

Economic development tool
To properly assess the growth potential for tourism as an economic development tool, the state needs to take a wider view of the costs and benefits of particular modes and different projects, according to Alex Metcalf, president of Transportation Economics and Management System in Maryland. He recently described the links between passenger train service and economic development at a workshop sponsored by the State Planning Office.

Officials in many state and federal agencies tend to take a "demand side" approach to evaluating transportation projects, considering time-savings for adding new trains and specifying the impact of construction jobs. To really understand the potential of transportation investment, Metcalf said, planners need a "supply side" analysis that considers the number of permanent jobs that can be added to a local economy, increases in property values around train stations and the development of a marketable image that appeals to visitors.

The Downeaster service is touted as a major success by Amtrak, but extending trains to Freeport, Brunswick and beyond would put the service into a different category, Metcalf said. Day trips from Boston to L.L. Bean are something different from commuting or weekend excursions by Mainers to Boston, and may represent different opportunities for downtown development in places like Freeport, he said. In other words, it may be possible to bring significant numbers of people to Maine through modes other than the automobile. Metcalf said a study his firm did for Ohio showed a positive correlation between passenger train development and overall economic growth.

Cruise ships are another important transportation growth story - and another way of getting visitors here. Stinson notes surveys showing that at least one-third of cruise passengers who make Maine a port of call later return to visit on their own - an unusually high number of repeat visitors. And while most ships call at Portland and Bar Harbor, large vessels are beginning to seek out more remote harbors such as Eastport. Maine's 3,000-mile coastline - 5,000 miles, if you count the barrier islands - is a magnet for the "super" or "ultra" yachts that are now cruising the world's oceans. "We definitely have the resource. Now we just have to provide the amenities," he said.

Paving the way for growth
Road and bridge issues, of course, remain high on everyone's agenda, including that of tourism officials. They are uniformly encouraged by the proposed $113 million transportation bond issue on the June ballot, a record amount. While the borrowing plan is seen by some as catching up to a major infrastructure deficit, there's no doubt that it is "a positive signal for those who depend on good roads," Chris Fogg said; the dollars Maine uses for transportation are just as important as the dollars it uses for marketing.

Visitors are even more sensitive to congestion and traffic jams than those who depend on roads daily, Cathy Goodwin said: "They're trying to get away from those experiences in their own back yard." That's why chambers like hers keep a close eye on construction projects that promise long-term improvements but create short-term inconvenience. In one version of bridge reconstruction plans from Portsmouth, N.H. to Kittery, two of the three Piscataqua River crossings could be closed at the same time - the Route 1 and 1B bridges, leaving only the I-95 bridge open. "Naturally, we'd prefer if it didn't happen that way," she said.

Vaughn Stinson says that the links between tourism, transportation and economic development are strong, but perhaps not always appreciated. "When voters decided to delay the Maine Turnpike widening back in the early 1990s, the project cost increased significantly," he said. "Just because you put something off does not mean the need for it goes away."

Tourism experts are hoping that same message spurs voters to support the transportation bond referendum in June and guides MaineDOT planners in the years ahead. The investment needs of tourism may be different, and perhaps more complicated, than siting an industrial facility and planning for truck and rail access, but they are equally important to the result, both tourism and transportation officials say.

"We're not going to get rid of the automobile, that's for sure," said Ron Roy. "But patterns are changing, and more people will probably get here by flying, by train, and by bus. And once they get here, they will move around differently and want different experiences." Herb Thomson added, "It's up to us to create a culture where this is possible."


Conversations with the leadership

For this issue, Maine Trails talked with the leadership on the Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Transportation: co-chairs Senator Dennis Damon and Representative Boyd Marley and minority leadership Senator Christine Savage and Representative William Browne. Each of them brings a unique perspective to the job, but they all share a common commitment to ensuring the safety and efficiency of Maine's transportation infrastructure.

Sen. Dennis Damon (D-Hancock County)
Senator Dennis Damon was born in Bar Harbor, studied education and played football at the University of Maine. He has worked, in typical Maine fashion, at many careers: as a schoolteacher, coach, entrepreneur and small business owner, as well as a fourth generation commercial fisherman. As a coach, he was named Maine high school "Baseball Coach of the Year." And as a teacher, he developed and taught a course called "The MaineFisherman." He and his wife Bonnie have three children.

How long have you served on the Transportation Committee?

This is my third term, my fifth year on Transportation and my third year as senate chair.

Do you serve on other committees?

I'm also on Marine Resources. I've been on it for five years and chair for all of that time. [Editor's Note: Senator Damon is the only senator currently chairing two standing committees.]

Why did you want this committee assignment?

As I recall, my first year I listed six committees I was interested in. Before being elected, I had been a county commissioner in Hancock County and was familiar with the issues surrounding transportation. I like it because typically transportation is a non-partisan issue. It transcends party lines.

What is the one thing that you would like to see changed/enacted/achieved regarding Maine's transportation system during your term?

LD 1790, "An Act to Secure Maine's Transportation Future." It's a bill I am sponsoring. It defines the need, sets a course of action, establishes a timetable and provides funding to achieve its goals. There's also accountability and the potential for doubling the funding available to fix our highways and bridges. This is the time to enact it. The Highway Fund as it is now is not sustainable. The inflationary pressures are too great and level of funding is only going to decrease as vehicles become more fuel-efficient.

What will be the biggest challenge to achieving that?

There are some issues as the bill was originally drafted, but we are working on that. We're looking at replacing the use of excise tax funds and replacing them with URIP funds [the Urban-Rural Initiative Program for capital highway improvements]. And getting support for a portion of the sales tax from the sales of cars and trucks is going to be a challenge, because right now that money is all going into the General Fund and using it for highways and bridges will cause a hole. But when you talk about the positive aspects of the bill, the feeling is that this is a good and favorable thing. We just need to educate people about the importance of having a long-term sustainable solution and what the consequences are if we don't do something. We have 288 bridges well past their anticipated lifespan, and our roads are getting further and further into disrepair. People have to understand how expensive it is going to be to fix them.

How would you describe the state of transportation in Maine today?

The first thing that comes to mind is that we have a tremendous need. The state's highways and bridges are in dire need of repair. And rebuilding them - along with supporting education and having a strong energy and sound tax policy - that is at the heart of building a brighter future for Maine.

If you had the ability to change one aspect of Maine's transportation system with the wave of a wand, what would it be?

To create a more sustainable funding model for taking care of our transportation system.

How many vehicles with wheels do you and your family own (including automobiles, trucks, bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles, RVs, etc.)?

I sold my motorcycle, so four. My wife's car is a '02 Hyundai. I drive a '99 Chrysler LHS. My son has a '96 Ford pickup and my daughter drives the old family van - a '95 Plymouth.

How do you get to Boston?

I fly, I drive, I take the bus and/or I take the train. I use whichever mode suits my travel needs best. I find it helpful to have a choice.

In your daily travels, what is the worst road you travel on? What's the best?

The best and worst is Route 3 from Trenton to Augusta. Parts of it have been "built" so that they are up to modern standards. Other parts are in real need of repair. Some stretches between Belfast and Augusta are not in very good condition.

Do you have a favorite scenic route?

For the sheer beauty of it, Ocean Drive in Acadia National Park. Keep in mind that's not a state road, it's a park road.

Do you have a vision of what transportation in Maine will look like in 20 years?

I'd like to see that our present road and bridge system was built to acceptable standards. Also that we have an improved network for moving information like we move cars and trucks on I-95. An "IT-95," so to speak.

Do you realize that we have the capacity to link up to double-stacked rail facilities through the ports so that goods shipped to and from Europe and North America could reach their destination faster?

They'd save a day if the ships docked in Maine rather than Norfolk, Virginia. Time is important in shipping, and if we made the investment, we could be a part of that.

What is your position on LD 1790? Why?

It is the single most important transportation legislation in the past 50 years, and it ought to pass. It's sustainable. It gives a clear vision. And it provides the means for getting it done.

Rep. Boyd Marley (D-Portland)
Representative Boyd Marley was born in Westbrook, studied criminology at the University of Southern Maine and now works as a special education teacher in South Portland. In addition to transportation, he is concerned about health care costs, escalating college tuition fees, affordable housing and toxic chemicals in the environment. In running for office, he believes in collecting many small contributions rather than a few big ones. He and his wife Anne have two children.

How long have you served on the Transportation Committee?

This is my fourth term on the Transportation Committee and my seventh year in the Legislature.

Do you serve on other committees?

No.

Why did you want this committee assignment?

When I first asked for committee assignments, I said any committee except Education. As a public school teacher, I wanted something different. Transportation seemed like a good fit given the makeup of my district in the city of Portland. There's significant transportation infrastructure represented there - an airport, transit, ferry service, both freight & passenger rail and the interstate. It's such a bipartisan committee, it seemed a good fit for my personality.

What is the one thing that you would like to see changed/enacted/achieved regarding Maine's transportation system during your term?

Passage of LD 1790, "An Act to Secure Maine's Transportation Future." For the past few years, it's been easy for the Legislature as a whole to overlook what's been happening in transportation, but on the committee we've seen it coming. The decline of the gas tax revenues and increase in the cost of construction materials has caught a lot of people off guard, and now it's got everybody's attention.

The best thing we can do for Maine now is to find new monies to make the investment in transportation and all the jobs that will bring. We've got communities that have been waiting for years for projects, knowing that they have businesses ready to invest and hire people once their road gets fixed. We need to make those investments.

Also, it's a very balanced bill with 10 percent going to alternative modes. That's important. Because even though funding for roads and bridges represent a lion's share of the funding, you still need to provide dependable transportation for the elderly and disabled and access to the islands.

What will be the biggest challenge to achieving that?

The impact on the General Fund budget will be the toughest piece of the legislation. But when you look at it, you see we can do this in a reasonable fashion.

How would you describe the state of transportation in Maine today?

Transportation in this state and nationally is in a crisis. We have underinvested in everything - roads, bridges, freight railways, bus and ferries. Recently, 63 of 64 winter residents of Isle au Haut came to talk to us about the great need for ferry service (their "highway"). We need to invest in the integrity of the entire system and take care of what we have. Then we can start to talk about new investments.

If you had the ability to change one aspect of Maine's transportation system with the wave of a wand, what would it be?

I think it would be the funding piece - making it more sustainable so we can make investment decisions in a more thoughtful manner rather than robbing Peter to pay Paul. We can't even keep shoring up the system while the pie keeps getting smaller. We need to grow the pie.

How many vehicles with wheels do you and your family own (including automobiles, trucks, bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles, RVs, etc.)?

Two cars, four bicycles and a couple of scooters. My wife drives a Chevy HHR van, and I drive a Ford Focus.

How do you get to Boston?

Generally, I take the train to Boston and to D.C., too. Driving isn't worth the hassle once you factor in congestion, tolls, parking costs, etc. The Downeaster takes you right down town and I can catch the T anywhere I need to go.

In your daily travels, what is the worst road you travel on? What's the best?

In terms of condition and traffic congestion? A number of my neighborhood streets are in need of repair. But I'd say the worst is I-295 from Washington Avenue to Forest Avenue in Portland. I take it from my home to my teaching job in South Portland. The congestion is so bad that sometimes the traffic backs up onto the highway, creating the potential for high speed crashes on the Interstate.

The best road I typically travel on? I-295 north of Portland. There is less congestion, because I am driving against the traffic pattern. I'm driving north toward Augusta, while the majority of the traffic is heading into Portland.

Do you have a favorite scenic route?

Route 302 to my parents' camp on Sebago Lake. There's this piece where you can see the lake through the trees. I've been going there my whole life.

Do you have a vision of what transportation in Maine will look like in 20 years?

I like how Rep. Cebra puts it: "When you look at the transportation system from 3,000 feet, what do you see?" In LD 1790, we set out specific goals and then we say how we're going to take care of our transportation system and how we're going to grow it. In 20 years, I see a system that's safer and that can move more people and more freight efficiently. It's a balanced system, that supports the needs of rural and urban Mainers.

What is your position on LD 1790? Why?

I absolutely support LD 1790, because it's a thoughtful approach to adding funding. It lays out goals and sets a timetable and has public accountability, so we can see how well we are doing.

Sen. Christine Savage (R-Knox County)
Senator Christine Savage went to Union High School and worked 16 years in the Camden town office, including a year as acting town manager. She also served as Warren town manager for five, and has since retired. She has been a strong supporter in her party and in the Legislature as a whole for stepped up investment in Maine's transportation infrastructure. She is keenly involved in the issue of transportation safety and is an advocate for mandatory seat belt use. Sen. Savage is the longest running member of Transportation currently serving on the Transportation Committee. She has four children and six grandchildren.

How long have you served on the Transportation Committee?

This will be my 11th year.

Do you serve on other committees?

No others currently. During my first term, I served on State and Local Government, but the next term, the Republican leadership asked if I would serve on Transportation. I had been the town manager in Warren and their part-time road commissioner.

Why did you want this committee assignment?

It's not partisan. We're all working toward the same result. Some may have a different idea of how to get there, but we all want the same thing.

What is the one thing that you would like to see changed/enacted/ achieved regarding Maine's transportation system during your term?

The one thing I'd like to accomplish is to find a long-range funding solution to the transportation system.

What will be the biggest challenge to achieving that?

I've always felt that we've needed to have access to a portion of the state sales tax on automobiles and trucks for highways and bridges. The challenge will be working with Appropriations, and they have challenges of their own, so that hold on sales tax revenues will be a challenge.

Also I think we need to take a serious look at the OPEGA findings for State Police funding. [Editor's Note: In February 2007, the Office of Program Evaluation & Government Accountability released its findings that the Highway Fund was overpaying by $13.5-$20 million per year for Maine State Police operations.]

How would you describe the state of transportation in Maine today?

Without a good transportation system, we're not going to impact the economic status of the state. Every industry that would look to locate in Maine is not going to be attracted if we don't have good roads and highways to get their products to market.

If you had the ability to change one aspect of Maine's transportation system with the wave of a wand, what would it be?

The funding source. We need an adequate and stable funding source. We've already got good people, but we need the funds so they can do their job of keeping the highways and bridges safe.

How many vehicles with wheels do you and your family own (including automobiles, trucks, bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles, RVs, etc.)?

A 2005 Legacy Outback with four-wheel drive and a 1995 Toyota Tacoma truck. I live on a dead end and my old front-wheel drive Toyota would get stuck and I had to call my son.

How do you get to Boston?

I like the train from Portland if I'm going to a show, but to do shopping we take the car with a couple extra people. My daughter who has lived in the Boston area does the driving and knows where to park.

In your daily travels, what is the worst road you travel on? What's the best?

The worst is my own road where I live. The best? Route 17 is not a bad road. They take good care of it in the winter weather. But that last mile I have to drive to my house, that's the worst.

Do you have a favorite scenic route?

Appleton Ridge Road and the road up Mount Battie in Camden. And I like the drive down Spruce Head [Routes 131 and 73]. I don't have to go far. These are all within 25 miles. This summer, I'll be doing a lot more traveling around Maine with a friend who will be visiting.

Do you have a vision of what transportation in Maine will look like in 20 years?

There's a big effort to push trains, and I'm not sure a passenger train would pay for itself. I like to go to Portland and take the train to Boston, but I don't see it supporting itself. I would like to see freight move more on rail. It would relieve congestion on the roads.

What is your position on LD 1790? Why?

I really haven't taken a position. It's got possibilities, and I don't know if there will be any other proposals to replace it or add to it. I don't think we're quite ready for it to go into effect. I think we've got to address the challenges. The need for money is so great, and it will require deciding whether what we have goes to health and human services or education or our highways and bridges. But we have to do something, so that people can know that these roads that haven't been rebuilt in 50 years are going to get fixed.

Rep. William Browne (R-Vassalboro)
Representative William Browne is a farmer and former chemistry teacher with 37 years at Waterville High School. Retirement hasn't slowed him down. In addition to running the family farm with his wife, he now spends his time thinking about the intricacies of red tape, among other things. Browne earned a bachelor of science in agriculture from the University of Southern Maine, and a master of science in education from the University of Utah. He and his wife Carolyn, have two children and three grandchildren.

How long have you served on the Transportation Committee?

This is my third term and fifth year on Transportation

Do you serve on other committees?

No, but last year I served one year on State and Local Government.

Why did you want this committee assignment?

Looking at all the committees, I was most interested in transportation and agriculture. Transportation is a good committee because it is so non-partisan. If anything, issues can be more regional than they are partisan.

What is the one thing that you would like to see changed/enacted/achieved regarding Maine's transportation system during your term?

If we can get a sustainable funding resource, that's what it would be. I feel like we're on the right track with LD 1790, "An Act to Secure Maine's Transportation Future." We need a sustainable source of funding for our transportation system. We just can't meet the need unless there is an increase in funding. Senator Damon's bill is a step in the right direction.

What will be the biggest challenge to achieving that?

The General Fund needs money - in my opinion we're been spending beyond our means - and it will be difficult to shift any of those funds to transportation. When the bill goes to Appropriations, that will be the challenge - balancing General Fund needs with transportation.

How would you describe the state of transportation in Maine today?

By all accounts, our transportation system needs attention. Our bridges are old and in need of repair. This year, we're posting more roads than we did last year. In my district, a lot of roads need resurfacing or to be rebuilt. That's true all over the state.

If you had the ability to change one aspect of Maine's transportation system with the wave of a wand, what would it be?

It would be making connections: connecting the ports of Searsport and Mack Point by rail so our paper plants can ship their products more efficiently; connecting Amtrak to Rockland and beyond; adding capacity with the East-West Highway and the interstate north to Aroostook County; and increasing the weight limits on the interstate, so we can reduce the wear and tear on local highways. But rail service, both freight and passenger, seems to be the wave of the future.

How many vehicles with wheels do you and your family own (including automobiles, trucks, bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles, RVs, etc.)?

I drive a '05 GMAC pick-up. My wife drives a '05 Volvo, and we both have bikes.

How do you get to Boston?

When we do go to Boston, we drive.

In your daily travels, what is the worst road you travel on? What's the best?

I'm lucky that most of my travel is on a section of Route 201 between Vassalboro and Augusta, and that's in pretty good shape. The worst road is Webber Pond Road in Vassalboro. It's in pretty bad shape. It's a state-aid road, and it's on the planning list to be rebuilt.

Do you have a favorite scenic route?

We drive down through the countryside around Dresden then on Routes 130 and 32 to Pemaquid Point. If we have guests in town, we stop at Round Pond for lobster.

Do you have a vision of what transportation in Maine will look like in 20 years?

The population is moving out of urban centers. With computers and the internet, they are discovering that you don't have to live in a city. That's going to make our rural roadways a lot more crowded, and we need to work on a good plan to be ready. We need to take care of our roads and provide alternate means - mass transportation like trains and public buses to keep the economy growing.

What is your position on LD 1790? Why?

I'm very much in favor of it. Right now, we can fund only about 70 percent of what needs to be done to maintain our highways and bridges. I like that this bill calls for dedicating the funds to roads and bridges. There's more work to be done, though, and maybe we need bring up the gas tax. I like the idea of the people who use the roads paying for their wear and tear.

Show as multiple pages