Maine Trails, December '07 - January '08
Inside Cover
President's Message
Cover Story: Three Mainers who have kept the state
Member News: Two for the road
Conversations with the Committee
An old dream gets a new face
Association News: Challenges and opportunities

Conversations with the Committee
This is fourth in Maine Trails’ series of interviews with members of the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation. In this issue, we talk with Representatives George W. Hogan, Sr., and Edward J. Mazurek about transportation in Maine, the funding challenges on the state level and what their vision is for the future of our transportation system.

Representative George W. Hogan, Sr. (D-Old Orchard Beach)
Representative George Hogan ran Hogan’s Market in Old Orchard Beach for 30 years. He is equally well known as that community’s former high school football coach. A native of the beachside town, he has served on both the town council and local school board. This is his second term in the Maine Legislature representing District 132. He supports tax reform and increased support for Maine’s schools. He also counts the urgent need for investment in Maine’s transportation infrastructure as a top priority during this legislative term. He and his wife Faith have five children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

How long have you served on the Transportation Committee?
I am entering the second year of my second term, so this will be my fourth year.

Do you serve on other committees?
No.

Why did you want this committee assignment?
When I looked at the make-up of the committee, I saw there were very few from southern Maine. I also knew it was the only committee outside of Appropriations that has its own budget to work with.

What is the one thing that you would like to see changed/enacted/achieved regarding Maine’s transportation system during your term?
Truly, what we need to see is a sustainable source of revenue. It is not a lot of fun to be living under this intense pressure of always being under-funded and always having to cut projects in this crucial area of state government. We have cut over $200 million in projects recently, and it isn’t fun.

What will be the biggest challenge to achieving that?
As I see it, the biggest challenge is educating other legislators to the huge needs in transportation and to constantly remind them how transportation impacts their lives as well as their constituents’ lives on a daily basis. The economy, public safety, mobility – transportation in some way impacts virtually every component of our constituents’ lives.

How would you describe the state of transportation in Maine today?
On a scale of one to 10, I would give it maybe a six or a seven. In some areas we are doing better than others, otherwise it would be lower. For instance, air and marine are managing themselves, but we have a big problem in roads and bridges where we are falling behind. There is such a crucial need for more revenues, sustainable revenues. The MaineDOT and the Maine Turnpike Authority do the best they can, but we really can’t feel too good about it. In many areas we are running behind. We are posting more roads and bridges. When the state posts a road or a bridge, we are not doing it because we are keeping up with things. We do it because we are falling behind. That has got to change.

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 try to create less of a dependence on traveling by cars, and more of an emphasis on trains and buses. Our dependence on life the way it exists now isn’t working for us. An immediate need is to find the money for the operating subsidy for the Downeaster. The Downeaster is a very popular service, and it runs on time, but we are running up against a crucial funding problem.

Did you support LD 1790? If yes, what do you think are the best prospects or strategies for getting the bill funded? If no, why not?
Yes, absolutely. There have already been attempts to have it gutted. Again, what we need is much more education so legislators understand how critical it is for their lives. Education is key.

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?
Absolutely! That’s a constitutional issue that should be upheld by all of us.

How many vehicles with wheels do you and your family own?
We have one car.

How do you get to Boston?
When we go to Boston, we drive down.

In your daily travels, what is the worst road you travel on? What’s the best?
The worst road is Temple Avenue in Old Orchard Beach which runs from Old Orchard to Ocean Park. The best road is the spur coming out of Old Orchard Beach directly to the turnpike. I recently drove on Route 111 outside of Biddeford, and that is a road that needs a lot of work.

Do you have a favorite scenic route?
Excluding the beautiful view you get standing on the shore in Old Orchard and looking out at the ocean, I also enjoy a beautiful stretch of road in Cape Elizabeth, the Shore Road. As it leads to the ocean, you get gorgeous views – just like a postcard.

Do you have a vision of what transportation in Maine will look like in 20 years?
My vision would include sustainable funding for our roads and bridges and getting them up to par. Longer term, my vision would include a lot more rail. We should expand Amtrak and also expand freight rail. Funding is the biggest obstacle, it always is! MaineDOT is good at coming up with ideas, but we need the actual funding. If we wait until people really understand how critical the state’s bridges are, it may be too late. Already there are so many bridges that are posted or closed, and there will be more if we don’t come up with more money. I would like to envision that one day there would be a monorail system along the turnpike or another major corridor. It would allow pedestrians to get off at various stops and leave their car behind. I know this is futuristic, but we have to think outside the box – it is the only way we are going to survive in today’s world.

Representative Edward J. Mazurek (D-Rockland)
Representative Edward Mazurek is a former professional football player, coach and school teacher who cut his teeth in politics while serving on the Rockland City Council from 2002-2004, half of that time as mayor. As a two-term representative for District 47, his priorities are easing the tax burden, improving education and transportation. He is a legislative liaison for the Lobster Management Policy Council- Zone D and has served on the Coast Guard Committee for the City of Rockland. He is on the advisory board to FMC and on the board of directors to the Maine Lighthouse Museum. He and his wife Maryellen have five children and four grandchildren.

How long have you served on the Transportation Committee?
I am in my second term, about to begin my fourth year on the committee.

Do you serve on other committees?
Currently, I also serve on the Marine Resources Committee.

Why did you want this committee assignment?
The reason I wanted to be on the Transportation Committee is that I really believe it is one of the most important committees in the legislature because of the tremendous importance that transportation can have on this state. It is critical – what happens if we do it right and what happens if we don’t do it right. I want to make sure we do it right – that we keep people safe, keep people moving, keep freight moving – it impacts every citizen and every business in this state.

What is the one thing that you would like to see changed/enacted/ achieved regarding Maine’s transportation system during your term?
My broad goal is to somehow pass a solid piece of legislation that would ensure guaranteed funding over the next 10 to 20 or 30 years and not rely strictly on the fuel tax, which is just not going to be feasible and is not going to work in the short term. Having the fuel tax be our primary source of funding creates a gap that just keeps widening. I hope we can come up with a strong bill – something along the lines of 1790 – and make it effective so that it is not only a short-term but also a long-term policy. We have to do something so that we are not faced with the ongoing problems that we are currently facing.

What will be the biggest challenge to achieving that?
I think the biggest thing is to try to get the entire legislature to look beyond the short term and to look at the long-term problems that this state will have if our transportation system is not kept up to par. Because our committee deals with it on a daily basis, we recognize how critical transportation infrastructure and funding is. Some of the other legislators say it is important, but since they serve on different committees with different issues, they have other priorities. We need to make that goal of long-term funding a priority for all legislators in the House and in the Senate and even the executive branch. We need to educate them and let them know clearly what happens when our transportation system isn’t what it should be.

How would you describe the state of transportation in Maine today?
I would describe it as moderately effective. We hear a lot about how bad things are, how our bridges are getting older. Unfortunately, we do have a large group of bridges that were built 50 or 60 bridges ago, and they are all getting old at the same time. But if you look at our entire highway system, it is not as bad as some people project it to be. It is not as good as it could be, but the state has worked very hard to keep that transportation system on its feet. We are working with less and less all the time. Sometimes people cry wolf, but I don’t really think it is as bad as some would say.

If you had the ability to change one aspect of Maine’s transportation system with the wave of a wand, what would it be?
In the short term, I would open up the rail line from Portland to Brunswick so that Rockland can have direct access. It is vital that we extend passenger rail to Brunswick. It would help the midcoast tremendously, and it is a strong focus of mine. If I could, I would open up all our rail lines, put them in pristine condition and have rail become a major player in the state of Maine. I would open up all the rights of way, fix all the railroad bridges, and get all the stations up and running. I would use green machines and the new biofuel. I think we could do wonders if the state of Maine could get our rail system running.

Did you support LD 1790? If yes, what do you think are the best prospects or strategies for getting the bill funded? If no, why not?
Yes, I did support it. I think the most important thing we need to do is to show that it is a definite need. The entire legislature and the executive branch need to be educated to fund 1790, because it is a long-range plan and it is going into the future. This is so crucial because we always tend to operate in the short-term. LD 1790 sets out a program and funding for the next 25 years. How we get that funding is going to be the real challenge.

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?
Yes, I do. I would recommend that it go either 49/51 or 50/50 because I think that the Highway Fund is supporting the state police in areas that should come out of General Fund monies. A 50/50 split is good because one of the problems that even OPEGA had is that they couldn’t come up with a definite percentage – that is why they went with a range. It is hard to come up with a definite figure so I think 50/50 would be a good split that both sides could agree with.

How many vehicles with wheels do you and your family own?
We have two cars.

How do you get to Boston?
It depends on what we are going for. If we are going to Logan, we take the Concord Trail Lines to Portland and then the bus from Portland on in. Concord offers a tremendous service – you save on parking, aggravation, driving, wear and tear – they do a great job. If we go down to see a Patriots game, we typically drive down.

In your daily travels, what is the worst road you travel on? What’s the best?
The worst road is Old County Road in Rockland, although the worst road in the midcoast area is Route 52, from Lincolnville to Belfast. That road is in dire shape – it is probably one of the worst roads in the state. The best road is probably Route 17 which is really maintained fairly well.

Do you have a favorite scenic route?
I like the drive beginning in Camp Ellis in Saco, going up the coast. There are a lot of little turnoffs, lots of places where you can see the water. Close to home, we enjoy Route 131 in Port Clyde, which is another beautiful, scenic road.

Do you have a vision of what transportation in Maine will look like in 20 years?
Yes I do. I hope to see increased use of rail travel, and I think that is going to come. I would like to see more public transportation being introduced for people who commute. For example, driving back and forth from Rockland and Augusta, the line of cars coming in and going out is a steady stream. What I would like to see is a parking area up around Union and have buses running from there into Rockland, back and forth during the busy commuting hours. Buses would reduce the amount of traffic, reduce pollution, and be more efficient. I think those are some of the things that we have to look at. It CAN be done. One of the problems in Maine is that Mainers are so independent and so dependent on their own vehicles. They don’t understand that public transportation is convenient and can work. People, if they understood it, would like to have less congestion and participate in cleaning up the environment. That can be done through inter-town transportation systems and buses. Bath Iron Works is already doing it for their employees, with park and ride areas and commuter shuttles. We should be doing it in more areas.

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Member News: Two for the road | Page 5 of 7 | An old dream gets a new face