Maine Trails, August - September '07
Inside Cover
President’s Message
Cover Story: Rail revival
Member News
Conversations with the committee

Conversations with the committee
This is second in Maine Trails’ series of interviews with members of the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation. In this issue, we talk with Senator William Diamond, a three-term member of the committee, and recently appointed members Representatives Charles Ken Theriault and Kimberly Rosen about transportation in Maine, the funding challenges on the state level and what their vision is for the future of our transportation system.

Senator Bill Diamond (D-Windham)
Senator Diamond has had a long career in public service that has included three terms in the Maine House of Representatives and three terms in the Maine Senate. He also served a stint as Maine’s secretary of state from 1989 to 1997; he’s owned a newspaper and several other businesses; he was the former director of governmental relations for the Elan Corporation; and he’s been a teacher, principal and superintendent for 18 years in the Raymond school system. Diamond received his bachelor of science degree from Gorham State College, a masters degree from the University of Southern Maine and has done graduate work at the University of New England. He is president of the Windham Land Trust, on the board of Hospice of Southern Maine and a member of the Windham Historical Society. He and his wife Jane have two grown daughters.

How long have you served on the Transportation Committee?
I served on the committee from 1984-1986 and then served on it during the last session – so five years.

Do you serve on other committees?
Yes. I’m the senate chair of Criminal Justice and Public Safety. That’s a very active committee that deals with very sensitive issues like OUI’s, guns, jails and sex offenders, so in comparison Transportation is relatively low key.

Why did you want this committee assignment?
Transportation is a very interesting committee. It was in the ‘80s when I first served on it, and it hasn’t changed since that time. Transportation is an important issue for my constituency, so being on the committee is very beneficial to the people who elected me.

What is the one thing that you would like to see changed/enacted/achieved regarding Maine’s transportation system during your term?
Maybe to create better awareness of the benefits of rail and how it helps our communities – particularly the potential for commuters and for freight. I sponsored a bill that funds a feasibility study for reviving the Mountain Division Rail Line. The line could be a big boon to the whole area and a big piece of our economic success.

What will be the biggest challenge to achieving that?
Sometimes rail is treated like a novelty. So, in order to revive the rail line, we’ll need to build awareness of its potential and follow that up with the funding piece. But I think the Mountain Division line could be the poster boy for other parts of the state, a shining example of the benefits of rail.

How would you describe the state of transportation in Maine today?
I think our transportation system is really just getting by and meeting its minimal goals. To get beyond that, we need to have a willingness to think outside the box and look at what we need to do – not just what’s required, but also what’s needed.

If you had the ability to change one aspect of Maine’s transportation system with the wave of a wand, what would it be?
Probably that would be to have a more stable, steadier funding system.

Did you support LD 1790? What do you think are the best prospects or strategies for getting the bill funded?
I opposed it in committee, but supported it after it was amended in the Senate. I think we need more study of the funding piece – we’re not ready to make that change yet. One way to fund it will be to redesign the gas tax to make it a percentage rather than a flat, per-gallon fee. I don’t think that will get us all of that $160 million they say we will need, but we shouldn’t get discouraged. We should keep working on it. Earlier this year, an OPEGA study was released that suggested the Highway Fund should pay between 17 and 34 percent of the State Police budget versus the 60 percent it is currently paying.

Do you support having the General Fund pay a higher percentage of the State Police budget?
Only if the Maine Legislature looks at it and discusses it more closely. It wouldn’t be right for us to jump in and make that change without more study.

How many vehicles with wheels do you and your family own?
One SUV, one sedan. That’s all we have with wheels.

How do you get to Boston?
Usually we drive, unless it’s a hockey game and then sometimes we’ll take the Downeaster. The train takes you right there and then leaves right after the game.

In your daily travels, what is the worst road you travel on? What’s the best?
The best road is the Maine Turnpike on all sections and in all seasons. It’s the absolute best. The worst is portions of Route 202, probably from Windham to Gray. It’s not that the road is in bad shape, it’s that it hasn’t been widened and the traffic is heavy.

Do you have a favorite scenic route?
Route 121 and Quaker Ridge Road in Casco. That goes up Quaker Hill and from there you can see the entire Sebago area. And Route 113 in Standish near the Water District with the views of Sebago Lake.

Do you have a vision of what transportation in Maine will look like in 20 years?
There’s what I hope it will be and what I’m afraid it will be. I’m afraid that the funding piece will not get resolved, and we’ll end up not having the resources we need to take care of our transportation system. Having a steady, reliable source of funding is very important to the long-term future of our infrastructure. Because the department can’t plan on much, if they can’t count on having the funding to do the work that needs to be done.

Representative Charles Ken Theriault (D-Madawaska)
Charles Ken Theriault retired recently after working 40 years in the paper industry in Madawaska where he also served as a union officer. Rep. Theriault introduced five bills during his first session dealing with a wide range of issues, from hunting to public access at Glazier Lake to a new border crossing bridge near St. David. He is a former Little League and Pony League coach and worked to fund and build the Madawaska Little League Field. He is a past chair of the Acadian Festival in Madawaska and served on festival committees for many years. He has been a United Way of Aroostook board member. He presently is a director of La Maission Acadienne, the Madawaska Snowmobile Club and the International Snowmobile Festival held in Madawaska. He also has volunteered for the Fort Kent Biathlon and dogsled races. Theriault and his wife, Patsy, have two children and four grandchildren.

How long have you served on the Transportation Committee?
This is my first session, so I’ve been on the committee for nine months.

Do you serve on other committees?
No, I’m on Transportation. That’s my dedicated committee right now.

Why did you want this committee assignment?
Transportation is a very important segment of our economy, and our transportation infrastructure is one of the more important issues. Because no matter where you live, you need to ride the highway to get where you want to go.

What is the one thing that you would like to see changed/enacted/ achieved regarding Maine’s transportation system during your term?
I guess one of the items is to be able to raise more income for the Highway Fund. The fuel tax dollars Maine collects are not able to sustain the needs of our highways, bridges, ferries, trains and other means of transportation.

Another thing that would be important for the people up here is a new bridge and border crossing. I put in a bill requesting funding for an environmental impact study, and we have to see if the Canadians are willing to work with us on that issue. The bridge might be somewhere in the Madawaska area. They are looking at upgrading the border crossing, and the people here would like to see a new, more commercial entry. But real estate is very tight where the bridge is now located near the Frasier mill property. A new bridge would connect us to the Trans Canada highway and with all the ship traffic that comes up the seaway.

What will be the biggest challenge to achieving those things?
The challenge for the international bridge will be at the federal level. If you have people working for you, politicians – not only myself, but others – it can happen, but it will take time. It’s the same for the North-South Highway that people have been talking about or getting a higher weight limit for trucks on the interstate. These are the large issues, and you can’t afford to be dormant on them. That’s the challenge: you need to keep up the pressure, because you want to keep our businesses open and our products competitive. How would you describe the state of transportation in Maine today? Our state is so large, and we have so many miles of highways and bridges to upkeep, it can be mind-boggling. And the bigger anything thing is, the more complex it is. Making sure we have the ways and means to maintain it is the challenge. We are not in the position to be in the laissez faire attitude. The past funding was sufficient then, but our needs are different now.

If you had the ability to change one aspect of Maine’s transportation system with the wave of a wand, what would it be?
There are other issues I’m very concerned about. With the wave of talk about a new North- South Highway and the East-West Highway, we need to talk about having weight limits on trucks raised to 100,000 lbs. It would promote commerce, and that would be good for Maine.

Did you support LD 1790? What do you think are the best prospects or strategies for getting the bill funded?
That’s a tough one. Yes, I did support LD 1790. To get it funded, I think we have to look at certain issues such as changes in title fees and how we pay for the State Police. That’s one of the things that’s going to be looked into by a special committee.

Earlier this year, an OPEGA study was released that suggested the Highway Fund should pay between 17 and 34 percent of the State Police budget versus the 60 percent it is currently paying. Do you support having the General Fund pay a higher percentage of the State Police budget?
I would support that. I think the General Fund should pay more. As to what that amount should be, I don’t know. I don’t have all the information, but I do know there’s got to be some changes somewhere. We have to start somewhere.

How many vehicles with wheels do you and your family own?
We have a truck and a car. We have one pick-up that is not registered – and it is in storage. Right now, there are three bicycles on the porch (two belong to my grandchildren). We have two snowmobiles, though those don’t have wheels, and two tractors. I may have a few more bicycles in the garage. I’m a pedal tractor and car collector, too, and I have 25 of those, including a 1941 pedal airplane and a 1957 GMC pedal truck.

How do you get to Boston?
I haven’t been there too much lately, but when I go to Logan Airport, I drive. My wife is from Texas and we used to fly out of there quite often. Now, we mostly drive to Bangor for flights or to Portland. When I was younger, I went by bus and sometimes I flew from Presque Isle.

In your daily travels, what is the worst road you travel on? What’s the best?
There are sections of Route 1, Route 11 and Route 161 that don’t have shoulders or paved bike lanes. We get quite a lot of cyclists, and it can be dangerous. The best is I-95 to Augusta.

Do you have a favorite scenic route?
I like Route 1 and Routes 11 and 161. I’m originally from the area around Wallagrass, and I like driving in the St. John Valley. There’s a road off of Route 1 in Frenchville called Starbarn Road that puts you right up on a hill so you can see the Valley and the river. The Flat Mountain Road is very scenic in St. Agatha – and, of course, Route 161 leading up to the Allagash.

Do you have a vision of what transportation in Maine will look like in 20 years?
That’s a tough one. I envision more mass transit further south in the state. I don’t think there will be a choice unless we hit oil. In the rural areas, I don’t think we’ll have many new highways, but that the highways we have will be better than they are now.

Representative Kimberley Rosen (R-Bucksport)
Representative Kimberley Rosen is a beautician ,business owner, water color artist, wife and mother. She currently is the eastern director for Women in Government, a national organization that provides leadership opportunities, networking, expert forums and educational resources to state legislators. Her legislative priorities are to control state spending, reform government and reduce health care costs. Rosen is a graduate of Southern Aroostook High School and the D’Lor Beauty School, and she attended the University of Maine as a non-traditional student, studying business and art. She and her husband, Senator Richard Rosen, are one of two couples concurrently serving in the state house. They have two adult children. She was was born in Island Falls, Maine.

How long have you served on the Transportation Committee?
This is my first term on Transportation.

How long have you served on the Transportation Committee?
This is my first term on Transportation.

Do you serve on other committees?
I was on Natural Resources during my first term. I’ve served on a select committee dealing with the unorganized territory and this term I have been appointed to a select committee dealing with state police funding.

Why did you want this committee assignment?
Transportation was my number one choice. As a legislator, I am very concerned about the condition of the entire transportation system in Maine.

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 would be eliminating the utility poles and moving all the cables and wiring underground.

What will be the biggest challenge to achieving that?
It will be expensive to move that all underground, but I think safety will improve for all motorists.

How would you describe the state of transportation in Maine today?
We need to upgrade our entire transportation network.

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 would improve road safety, enhance bike lanes and put utility wires underground.

id you support LD 1790? What do you think are the best prospects or strategy for getting the bill funded?
I did vote for it – and to study better ways to fund transportation. I don’t want to raise new taxes. I would like to see more funding from the state’s General Fund for transportation.

Earlier this year, an OPEGA study was released that suggested the Highway Fund should pay between 17-34 percent of the State Police budget versus the 60 percent it is currently paying. Do you support having the General Fund pay a higher percentage of the State Police budget?
We are working on that right now and should have a study and recommendations on that for the legislature later this year. So yes, I do support that.

How many vehicles with wheels do you and your family own?
We have two four-wheelers, one motorcycle and four vehicles – a minivan, an SUV and two sedans. Oh, and we have one bicycle (my daughter’s) and one unicycle (my son’s).

How do you get to Boston?
Usually on I-95 by car. I’ve gone by bus and taken the train from Portland and fly from Bangor and Trenton.

In your daily travels, what is the worst road you travel on? What's the best?
Years ago, Route 3 to Augusta used to be bad, but the D.O.T. has improved the road and it’s much better. Route 1 is a traffic challenge during the summer.

Do you have a favorite scenic route?
US Route 1, it’s our most beautiful area. And I’ve been taking a lot of people to the new bridge and observatory (Penobscot Narrows), and they are just as amazed by Fort Knox. That’s been a wonderful thing about the new bridge – how it turned the spotlight on the fort.

Do you have a vision of what transportation in Maine will look like in 20 years?
In the near future we need safer highways and vehicles to reduce the terrible injuries and loss of life we see today. We have the technology and the equipment, but it’s going to take some work.

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