The $71.25 million transportation bond
Question 6: Do you favor a $71,250,000 bond issue for improvements to highways and bridges, airports, public transit facilities, ferry and port facilities, including port and harbor structures, as well as funds for the LifeFlight Foundation that will make the State eligible for over $148,000,000 in federal and other matching funds?
One of the most important transportation-related questions on the November 3 ballot will be the $71.25 million transportation bond referendum.
“This bond is the heart of the MaineDOT program for the next two years,” said Maine Bettter Transportation Association Executive Director Maria Fuentes.
MaineDOT estimates the bond will generate $148 million in federal, local and private matching funds – bringing the total infrastructure investment to more than $219 million. (A breakdown of the programs included in the bond is on page 23.) The department also estimates highway and bridge projects in the bond will support 4,600 direct and indirect jobs.
How Mainers will vote on the bond referendum is difficult to predict. Still, Fuentes is guardedly optimistic.
“It is hard to know how this will turn out,” said Fuentes. “If you look at the issue of transportation investment from an historical perspective, chances are it will pass – easily. But there are other factors.”
One of those factors is the “taxpayer bill of rights” initiative (TABOR) on the ballot and a second ballot question that seeks to reduce the local excise tax on automobiles. Another is Mainers’ continuing anxiety over the economy.
“This is a tough economy and people are feeling the pinch,” said Fuentes. She said that campaigning by the TABOR II group might have a spillover effect that will pull support from the YES vote on the bond referendum. Still, she is positive about the prospects for the bond’s passage.
“Mainers typically come out strong for transportation investments,” said Fuentes who said that voters have passed every highway transportation bond since 1966 (Note: port and rail bonds have failed in the past, but not since they have been included as part of the highway bond package). “It is incumbent on the MBTA and others to get the word out to their members, and for companies to get the word out to their employees and others about what is in Question 6, the transportation bond.
“When people hear the message, they understand the connection between efficient, safe transportation and good jobs and quality of life. That’s why it’s so important we work hard to help this pass,” said Fuentes.
Here is a look in-depth on the proposed question and at what you are being asked to vote on.
What’s in the transportation bond?
Statewide highway and bridge investments: $55 million - Federal match $110 million
A major component of MaineDOT’s proposed $637 million statewide, two-year highway and bridge capital program. MaineDOT’s entire capital highway and bridge program will create 133 bridge projects, 200 miles of capital paving, and 17 miles of highway reconstruction. MaineDOT estimates the bond and federal match will support approximately 4,600 direct and indirect jobs.
Rail investments: $4 million - Private match $3 million
Critical Rail Corridors – $2 million
Includes a statewide rail plan study required for future federal passenger and freight rail funding. It will also establish a program that will encourage public-private partnerships and is expected to leverage $2 million in private investment.
Industrial Rail Access Program (IRAP) – $1 million
For matching grants to private businesses for freight rail infrastructure upgrades in order to move products via rail. The IRAP investment will leverage $1 million in private or local funds.
State-owned rail lines – $1 million
For capital upgrades to state-owned rail lines, including the Rockland Branch and the Lewiston Lower Rail Line.
Port and ferry improvements: $8.25 million - Federal match $11.75 million
Port of Eastport – $4.5 million
For bulk cargo handling facility to improve freight handling efficiency and diversify port customer base.
Searsport Harbor – $1.25 million
Part of state match needed for channel dredging project to enable state to market port to larger freight vessels. The Army Corps of Engineers is co-sponsor of the Searsport project and will provide the $11.75 million match. (Maine must secure an additional $3.5 million match by July 2011 for construction to proceed).
Ferry facilities – $1 million
To address critical capital maintenance of Maine State Ferry Service and Casco Bay Island Transit District vessels and facilities.
Gulf of Maine Research Institute – $1.5 million
To rebuild the bulkhead at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland (to be administered by the Department of Economic and Community Development).
Aviation improvements: $3.6 million - Federal match $57 million; local funds $1.5 million; LifeFlight match $500,000
Statewide aviation – $2.6 million
$1.5 million for grants for infrastructure improvements to publicly owned airports statewide. Projects include runway and taxiway reconstruction, safety improvements, and other enhancements to improve airport access and safety and to support economic development associated with air services in Maine.
$500,000 for transportation infrastructure at the Brunswick Naval Air Station. In addition, some funds are for pavement preservation to protect and extend previous investments.
Remaining $600,000 for capital improvements at the Augusta State Airport and the Island Airport Program.
LifeFlight – $1 million
To improve access and safety of LifeFlight’s emergency medical services in rural and island communities with automated weather observing stations (AWOS) and helicopter approaches (electronic maps) at designated landing zones.
Intermodal Investments: $400,000
Federal FTA match $800,000
Trenton intermodal facility – $0.4 million
For design of Phase II of the Acadia Gateway Intermodal Center, including National Park Service and large restroom facilities, bus berths and visitor parking. MaineDOT will build the facility and lease it to the National Park Service (NPS) to operate and maintain. NPS will lease space to the Mt. Desert Regional Chamber for tourism activities.