There’s more to do . We need billions to fix our roads and bridges.
By Gregory A. Dore, MBTA President
A year can go by quickly, and this one certainly has.
My year as president of the Maine Better Transportation Association has been a busy one, and the pace seemed to accelerate as time went on. We covered a lot of ground in the last 12 months.
The MBTA year is filled with events and activities from our statewide issue meetings, our annual meeting and convention, the MBTA Infrastructure Golf Tournament and more. But the heart of our calendar is the advocacy work we do to ensure that Maine’s transportation network is as safe and efficient as it should be. That includes numerous opportunities to speak on behalf of the organization about how great the need is and how much more Maine needs to invest to give our families safer highways and bridges and our businesses a more efficient transportation network – including rail and marine freight facilities. It’s an obvious message, I thought, one that everyone can identify with and get behind. What I didn’t count on was how hard it is to get that message out with so many competing interests vying for the public’s attention and the public’s dollar.
I was lucky that many other people were out there this past year with the same message, including organizations like Maine Section ASCE. The Maine chapter published its first-ever Infrastructure Report Card that was widely distributed and covered by media statewide. Kudos to Peter Merfeld, Erik Wiberg and the many members of the local ASCE Chapter who put in hundreds of volunteer hours to complete the report. They all know modernizing our transportation system creates good paying jobs, and that was a message that Maine was ready to hear.
There are others right here in Maine, like Senator Dennis Damon who, as chair of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, spends considerable time talking about Maine’s enormous transportation needs. He is constantly telling everyone who listens that Maine’s needs are “not in the millions, but in the billions,” and he isn’t exaggerating in the least.
Senator Damon is just stating a hard truth that was underscored in MaineDOT’s new two-year work plan unveiled to the public earlier this spring. In it, MaineDOT states there will be unmet needs costing more than $3 billion over the next 10 years. That $3 billion represents hundreds of bridges that need repairing, thousands of miles of roads that need to be resurfaced or rebuilt, ports that need to be modernized and rail lines that need to be upgraded. We need to find that $3 billion – and maybe more – to invest if we are to have a transportation system that will encourage Maine businesses to grow and keep our families safe.
In this month’s cover story we explore a major concern of this organization – what to do about the public’s post-stimulus funding fatigue. Maine is set to receive $130 million in federal stimulus funding for transportation. But as Senator Damon is quick to point out, it is only a drop in a multi-billion dollar bucket. The question is this: How can we persuade our friends, neighbors and business associates to act now, before this massive problem grows even larger?
So, as I pass on the MBTA’s presidential gavel to our new president, Tom Martin, I also will pass on an item on my to-do list that I didn’t have a chance to get to this past year. And that would be “Find $3 billion.”
I suggest, Tom, that you get to work on that item right way.
In closing, I would like to thank all the members and volunteers who make the
hard work the MBTA does enjoyable and fulfilling. MBTA members are great for pitching in at a moment’s notice for the right cause. We also have a wonderful board of directors who I relied on during the past 12 months, for counsel and advice and the occasional pinch hit when I couldn’t attend an MBTA event.
I particularly have enjoyed getting to know a special group of dedicated legislators who daily work to make Maine’s transportation system better. They truly have the safety and well being of our communities at heart. It also has been a pleasure to work closely with the MBTA staff – Maria, Deanna, Joyce and Kathryn – who work hard along with our many volunteers to “get the job done.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t make special mention of our senior policy advisor John Melrose, president of Maine Tomorrow. John is an incredible asset, and we are very fortunate to have him as part of our team.
Finally, I would like to thank my family and my employer, the town of Skowhegan, for their support and patience. I have enjoyed this year as president very much.