Maine Trails, October - November '09
Inside Cover
President's Message
Cover Story
Question 6
TIGER
Giving their all
Burns' Fencing
MBTA celebrates 70
President’s Message
Falling apart. Even with voter passage of the transportation bond, Maine’s roads and bridges are in danger of failing.
By Thomas A. Martin, Jr.
 
Cover Story
Exit strategies. Augusta looks for cost-effective congestion solutions in the expansion of I-295 Exit 113.
By Douglas Rooks
 
Maine News
Voters approve Question 6. The transportation bond passes by a 2-1 margin; two critical questions are voted down.
By Kathryn Buxton
      
Hopes for a TIGER in Maine’s tank. Maine vies with other states for competitive ARRA grants.
By Kathryn Buxton
 
Association News
Giving their all. MBTA members raise $35,000 for Infrastructure Fund and scholarships.
 
MBTA celebrates 70.
 
Member News
On guard. Burns’ Fencing shows how good fences – and guardrail – make good business.
By Kathryn Buxton
 

 


Falling apart

A new report reinforces what we have known for a while: Maine’s roads and bridges are failing and we need to do something about it

by Thomas H. Martin, Jr.,MBTA President
 
One story in this issue caught my eye, maybe because it was about how our roads and bridges are “falling behind.” It is about a new report on Maine’s transportation network by The Road Information Program (TRIP) released this October. “Falling Behind: The Condition and Funding of Maine’s Roads, Highways & Bridges” (page 22).
 
TRIP tells us what so many of us in transportation already know – that Maine is losing ground in its battle to keep our roads paved and our bridges safe. The report goes one step further to say that if we don’t do something soon, things will only get worse.
 
By failing to adequately fund transportation and make Maine’s network of highways, roads and bridges efficient and safe, we risk having our economy fall behind. (“The Difference is Night and Day,” a report released by the Maine Development Foundation in conjunction with the MBTA earlier this year, came to many of the same conclusions. You can download copies of both reports at www.mbtaonline.org).
 
Here in Maine, as we head into winter, a season when our roads and bridges take a particular beating, I am concerned that we are not just at danger of falling behind, but of falling apart. I say that because I know within 10 miles of Benton where my business is based, there are three bridges on the state Bridge Watch list and countless miles of state and local roads in need of reconstruction and repair. I also know, that as the snow starts to fall and the winter cycle of freeze-and-thaw begins, roads in Benton and across the state are going to literally fall apart – to crack and form potholes that grow bigger with each year we fall further behind in our highway maintenance.
 
There is some good news in transportation these days. Question 6 did pass by a very strong margin – with a 65.4 percent YES vote. And working together, we helped defeat two critical voter referendums that had serious ramifications for transportation in Maine. Question 2, if passed would have cut the excise tax drastically; and Question 4, known as TABOR 2, would have severely hampered local and state efforts to fund transportation maintenance and improvements in the future.
 
Even with those successes and though the $71.25 million transportation bond passed resoundingly – proving once again that Mainers place a high priority on transportation – the truth is, this is just a small down payment on the $6.5 billion repair bill that is coming due.
 
That is how much MaineDOT estimates we will need to fix our aging bridges and repair and rebuild our state highways over the next 10 years. And right now, we expect to raise only half that much through existing funding sources – primarily the gas tax.
 
If we don’t figure out where the other $3 billion plus is to come from, transportation in Maine will not just fall behind, it will most certainly fall apart.
 
My fellow MBTA member Erik Wiberg recently put it best when he spoke at a news conference in support of Question 6, the transportation bond. “We can no longer afford to rely on patch and pray methods,” said Wiberg.
 
“Patching and praying” is what we have been reduced to doing here in Maine – and across the nation – for several years now. We have done the best we can with the dwindling resources available for highways and bridges. We have cut budgets, found efficiencies and put countless projects on hold.
 
The growing backlog of roads that need to be reconstructed is almost criminal. They are costing us dearly – in increased maintenance costs on our vehicles, in longer shipping times required to get our products to market and in safety hazards faced by our families every day. We need solutions now – before our transportation systems fall even further apart.
 
In closing, I’d like to say thank you to all of our members who helped during the recent elections. By speaking to local groups, at news conferences, writing letters to the editor, phone banking and distributing payroll stuffers to those you work with, you helped to make a difference.
 
I look forward to seeing many of you at our annual Holiday Meeting at the Black Bear Inn in Bangor on Thursday, December 10. If you attend, you can meet some of our scholarship recipients who will be in attendance. This is a wonderful time of year, made so by the people we are privileged to share it with. 
 
And don’t forget! If you haven’t yet bought your Super Raffle ticket yet, please call the MBTA office today. This is a great way to help Maine students pursue transportation-related degree programs, and you just might win a $7,000 vacation, as well.

Exit strategies

Augusta looks to expanding an interstate exit to help improve safety and unleash growth in the local economy

By Douglas Rooks
 
If all goes well, within a year or two the capital area could be well on its way to adding capacity off Interstate 95 that would allow construction of more than 2.5 million feet of retail, commercial and institutional space. It also would relieve what has come to be a growing bottleneck at Exit 112, the intersection of I-95 with Route 27 north and Civic Center Drive.
 
Burgeoning growth in the north Augusta area, extending outward from the University of Maine at Augusta campus and the Civic Center, has been one of the biggest transformations of the capital since early the 1950s when Western Avenue first became a commercial zone. But the expansion of the Marketplace of Augusta and business parks north on Route 27 have challenged the area’s existing road capacity. Any further expansion could trigger major infrastructure costs for developers, who under state law would bear responsibility for increasing capacity – and are understandably reluctant to shoulder that responsibility alone.
 
Coordination is key
 
In many instances, such a situation would lead to a lengthy period of contention, but in Augusta, the process of addressing congestion could be considerably smoother, thanks to a planning study funded jointly by the Augusta Board of Trade, the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce and MaineDOT.
 
“I can’t think of another instance in which a community stepped forward to deal with congestion in such a coordinated way,” said John Melrose, president of Maine Tomorrow, whose firm collaborated with Gorrill Palmer Consulting Engineers on a preliminary study, released in September, Augusta North Connections: A Comprehensive Area Traffic Movement Solution.
 
Asked why the Kennebec Chamber stepped forward to fund a planning study, Peter Thompson, its president, said, “It was a clear community priority, something that’s needed if Augusta is to continue to grow.”
 
MaineDOT is involved because of its responsibility to keep the interstate system functioning efficiently. Even with new, coordinated traffic signals and turning lanes, Exit 112 is at capacity and the area faces the real possibility of traffic backing up the exit and entrance ramps – a clearly hazardous situation, according to MaineDOT engineer Darryl Belz.
More attention has been drawn to the area because of the recent announcement of MaineGeneral Health, that operates three hospital campuses in Augusta and Waterville, that it plans to consolidate inpatient operations in North Augusta, adjacent to the Alfond Cancer Care Center that opened in July 2007.
 
While the cancer center has earned rave reviews, it is difficult to access from the interstate. So when MaineGeneral announced its plan for a new campus, to open by 2014-15, planners began focusing on Exit 113.
 
Chuck Hays, CEO of MaineGeneral’s hospitals, said discussion about what to do to unlock a traffic bottleneck around the interstate exits began about two years ago. For the hospital to be built, better access to I-95 and better traffic circulation in the area was essential.
 
“When we looked at expanding Exit 112, it was clear there were a lot of problems,” he said, because the interchange was already at capacity.
 
Civic Center Drive (Route 27) has already been widened for previous projects, and couldn’t provide any more lanes as it passes under I-95. And if a new, wider overpass were to be built, deeper support beams would be required and the I-95 mainline grades would have to be altered. Those expenses alone made the Augusta groups and MaineDOT pay closer attention to Exit 113.
 
Built as part of the “third bridge” project that brought a new crossing of the Kennebec River to Augusta, Exit 113 is currently only a two-way interchange, routing traffic from I-95 directly to Route 3 heading toward Belfast. Before the project’s completion in November 2004, coastal traffic had to navigate Western Avenue, two traffic circles, and Bangor Street, adding measurably to congestion.
 
Roundabout way
 
Now, preliminary studies show how Exit 113 could be expanded for full access, with new ramps from the interstate leading to roundabouts just east and west of the highway.
 
Roundabouts are small traffic circles that operate at lower speeds than larger circles, like the Cony and Memorial traffic circles at opposite ends of Augusta’s Memorial Bridge. The smaller traffic circles found increasing favor with transportation planners in recent years. By avoiding stops for traffic lights, a roundabout allows for greater traffc capacity. The new, smaller traffic circles planned for Exit 113 will have a smaller turning radius to keep driver speeds down. That will make them safer than older, larger traffic circles.
 
New Hampshire has built several new roundabouts in recent years, and they are on the drawing board for several local and state projects in Maine.
 
Making connections
 
To make an expanded Exit 113 work, plans call for a connector road leading to Route 27 to the north. That could be either an upgrade to Old Belgrade Road, or a new road constructed on a parallel line. At this point, the new road seems to be no more costly and would create fewer conflicts with existing uses, according to Roger Pomerlau, the landowner whose property had been the site of the Marketplace at Augusta’s development and expansion.
 
Pomerlau points out that the Department of Public Safety headquarters, located at the old Digital Equipment plant, now the Maine Commerce Center, would have better access to I-95 via a connector road. “It’s a straight shot for one of the most important uses in the area,” he said. “In a sense, this is one of the most important interstate connections in the entire state.”
 
Keen interest
 
City government has been following the plan with keen interest, although because state and federal routes are involved, its role is limited, said Augusta’s economic development director, Mike Duguay. His office is providing a staff member to work on planning, though, and that should move things forward more rapidly.
 
“There were several different variables, all of that pointed us to a particular solution,” Duguay said. Not the least of those variables was the loss of at least one major commercial investment in the area. A proposed expansion of the Marketplace at Augusta, known as Phase 3b, was tabled by the planning board after state studies showed it would exceed infrastructure capacity even with planned improvements at Exit 112.
 
That development could come back for review, if capacity is again expanded, though Peter Thompson noted that it will be some time before retail growth resumes after the current recession.
 
Another variable has been growth at the Augusta Commerce Center, after the sale of the 200-acre campus, most recently owned by SCI, to Mattson Development. Further development, however, is also on hold pending resolution of the Exit 112 capacity problem.
 
While the hospital focused new attention on the issue, it is only one piece of the puzzle in generating room for growth, Duguay said.
 
It’s a prominent piece, though. By December, Chuck Hays said, MaineGeneral will file plans for a Certificate of Need with the state to create a 230-bed hospital that would cost more than $300 million. The state has encouraged consolidation of hospital facilities, and MaineGeneral would close its Chestnut Street campus in Augusta and its Seton Unit in Waterville. The Thayer Unit in Waterville would be converted to a medical center offering outpatient treatment.
 
Unlike an earlier plan to consolidate the hospitals in Sidney, this one seems to be finding favor in Augusta and some support in Waterville, as well. MaineGeneral said the new campus is essential if the hospital is to attract top physicians and compete effectively with Maine’s other major hospitals in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor.
 
High priority designation
 
The North Augusta project still faces challenges concerning timing and funding. Under the most aggressive timetable, engineering work could start in 2010 and construction in 2011. “It would be great to get the new interchange open by the time the hospital construction starts,” Mike Duguay said. “That way all the construction vehicles could use the new interchange and not end up on city streets.”
 
For that to happen, the project would need a high-priority designation, and a request has been forwarded to Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s office. But much also depends on when the reauthorization of the multi-year federal transportation program occurs. Extensions of the current law, SAFETEA-LU, from periods of three to 18 months are being considered by Congress.
 
Cost may be less of an issue, surprisingly. Construction costs are estimated at $11 million – $6 million for the interchange expansion and $5 million for the connector road, Darryl Belz said. He added that right-of-way costs could be significant, but have not yet been estimated. In addition to federal funding, each new development in the area would shoulder part of the cost. By contrast, the Route 3/Third Bridge project cost $32 million.
 
One plus is that there doesn’t seem to be a significant impact on wetlands that would trigger a full National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, though a few vernal pools were identified during the original Third Bridge study.
 
Belz has made a number of public presentations to civic and city groups, and so far, the reaction has been largely favorable. For the connector, MaineDOT would acquire a corridor that would accommodate expansion to four lanes, if eventually necessary. The roundabouts would be built with two traffic lanes, but initially striped to allow just one lane. “That’s the best way to do it. You’ve built in expansion room without the need to go back for more construction,” Belz said.
 
In addition to road expansion, the project might also spur a significant expansion of transit use in the area. The new Concord Coach Lines bus terminal is nearby, and the city is considering expanding public bus routes to connect with the airport and downtown.
 
Unlike many congestion relief projects, this one has so far generated a surprising amount of agreement among the major players, and relatively little concern among the public. “From the very beginning, it was clear that we were working toward a common goal,” Chuck Hays said. “Everyone kept an open mind, and we were focused on what would be best for the region, not just an individual project. It’s been quite an exciting process so far.”
 
“It’s a model for how different levels of government and interest groups can sit down and come up with an answer that makes sense for everyone,” Melrose said. “It’s the kind of plan that meets all the tests.”

 


Maine News

Voters approve Question 6 by 2-to-1 margin

By Kathryn Buxton
 
Jobs and safety are important to Mainers, particularly now as the state struggles to recover from several quarters of recession-related job losses. That, according to Maine Better Transportation Executive Director Maria Fuentes, is the message to take away from the November 4 election that featured three transportation related ballot questions. Maine voters passed one of those questions, the $71.25 million transportation bond, with a 65.4 percent YES and 34.6 NO vote.
 
“Maine voters really seem to understand the importance of investment in our transportation infrastructure and how it is directly linked to our economic well-being and safety,” said Fuentes. “They know that we have to invest in infrastructure to create and sustain jobs.”
 
Voter turnout was unusually high for a mid-term election. Originally, state election officials had predicted a 35 percent voter turnout. By the end of the day, that number had jumped to nearly 60 percent. That strong turnout may have proved beneficial for Maine’s transportation network. In addition to passing the transportation bond, voters defeated two ballot measures that transportation advocates were watching closely:
 
Question 2, a measure that would have cut the excise tax was defeated by an almost 3-to-1 margin (74.06 percent voted NO; 29.94 percent voted YES);
 
Question 4, known as TABOR 2, was defeated with a 60.18 percent NO vote and 39.82 percent YES vote. If passed, Question 4 would have made transportation investments more difficult. 
 
“The early polling in August showed the shaky economy was helping us,” Mark Gray, chairman of Citizens Unified for Maine’s Future, the political action committee that ran the NO on Question 4 campaign told the Portland Press Herald. “It created a lot of uncertainty. The last thing people want in a state of uncertainty is more uncertainty.”
 
‘Money well spent’
 
The MBTA and its members had been very active in all three referendum campaigns. Fuentes and MBTA board members helped pull together a coalition of organizations, businesses and individuals in support of the transportation bond. To support the coalition’s efforts, the MBTA developed a Vote YES on Question 6 web site that gave the facts about the transportation bond, including the various programs the funding would support and levels of federal, local and private matching funds that would be generated if the bond passed and the number of jobs the funding would create. MaineDOT estimated that the $219 million in bonds and matching funds would create or support approximately 4,600 jobs in the Maine economy.
 
“Mainers have a lot of trust that spending money on transportation infrastructure is money well spent,” said Fuentes. “They know there isn’t a lot of waste and that what money we do spend creates a lot of family jobs.”
 
The message about matching funds was also effective, according to Fuentes. “We were able to show that with the bond, we could, in effect, triple our money, and that’s money that we can’t afford to say no to,” said Fuentes.
 
During the final days of the campaign, the MBTA and coalition members organized two press conferences that brought attention to Question 6. The MBTA, LifeFlight of Maine, the Maine Section ASCE, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce held news conferences in Bangor and Portland to help raise awareness of the transportation bond question.
 
At the Portland news conference, Erik Wiberg, speaking on behalf of the Maine Section ASCE, pointed out that passage of the bond was just one step on a long journey to repairing and modernizing Maine’s transportation infrastructure. Wiberg talked about a transportation system – crumbling roads, aging bridges and overstressed transit systems – that will need new sources of state and local funding to keep Maine’s economy moving in the future.
“We cannot afford to rely on ‘patch and pray’ methods,” said Wiberg. 
 
How did your county vote?
 
Question 6: Transportation Bond
 
Percentage of total votes cast by county
 

County

YES

NO

Androscoggin

62.22

37.78

Aroostook

64.22

35.78

Cumberland

70.28

29.72

Franklin

63.44

36.56

Hancock

66.96

33.04

Kennebec

62.84

37.16

Knox

68.94

31.06

Lincoln

64.84

35.16

Oxford

61.73

38.27

Penobscot

62.59

37.41

Piscatiquis

56.19

48.81

Sagahadoc

64.67

35.33

Somerset

56.21

43.79

Waldo

61.97

38.03

Washington

62.89

37.11

York

68.35

31.65

Statewide

65.40%

34.60%

 
Yes on 6 Coalition
 
Many thanks to the following organizations and their members who helped get out the vote in support of Question 6, the transportation bond referendum.
 
  • Maine Better Transportation Association
  • Maine State Chamber of Commerce
  • Maine Section, American Society of Civil Engineers
  • LifeFlight Foundation/LifeFlight of Maine
  • Maine State Employees Association,
  • SEIU Local 1989
  • Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce
  • Eastport Port Authority
  • Maine Chapter, National Association
  • of Women in Construction
  • Northern Maine Development Commission
  • Maine Tourism Association
  • Maine Municipal Association
  • Maine Chapter, American Public Works Association
  • American Council of Engineering
  • Companies of Maine
  • Portland International Jetport
  • Maine Campground Owners Association
  • TrainRiders Northeast
  • AGC Maine
  • Auburn Business Development Corporation
  • Federal Marine Terminals
  • International Union of
  • Operating Engineers
  • Lewiston Auburn Growth Council
  • Maine Innkeepers Association
  • Maine Service Center Coalition
  • Maine State Building and Construction
  • Trades Council
  • Northern New England Passenger
  • Rail Authority
  • Lewiston Development Corp.
  • Lewiston/Auburn Railroad Company
  • Maine Rail Group
  • Maine Aggregates Association
  • Maine Asphalt Pavement Association
  • Maine Automobile Dealers Association
  • PACTS - Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation Committee
  • Bicycle Coalition of Maine

Maine News

Maine hopes for a TIGER – or two – in its tank

State submits five proposals for ARRA discretionary grants

By Kathryn Buxton
 
One bridge, one bypass, three ports and several passenger and freight rail lines are Maine’s candidates for two pots of discretionary funding that are part of of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed into law earlier this year.
 
Six of Maine’s grant requests totalling $236.2 million are competing against requests from 49 other states and the District of Columbia. In total there is $1.5 billlion in TIGER funding (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) at stake. The competitive grant process is being administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
 
Three other grant proposals, submitted by NNEPRA (Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority), are vying for part of a second $8 billion pot of ARRA money intended to jump start investment in a national high speed intercity rail network. The Federal Rail Authority is managing the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program (HSIRP).
 
How any one of Maine’s grant requests will fare in the fiercely competitive process is hard to predict. All TIGER grant requests had to be submitted by mid-September 2009 (HSIRP proposals were due in August and early October). Grants are slated to be announced by February 2010. Maine’s proposals were among 1,400 TIGER grant proposals submitted by cash-strapped states that have been hit hard by the recession. NNEPRA’s three requests are competing in a pool of $50 billion in rail proposals to bring high speed rail to commuter corridors across the country. The Federal Rail Authority (FRA) will award $8 billion in HSIRP funding.
 
“I’m not sure how they [the U.S. DOT] will whittle it down, there are so many proposals,” said Nate Moulton, director of MaineDOT’s rail program.
 
Moulton oversaw three different Maine rail grants for TIGER funding. He said that since the applications were submitted, his office hasn’t heard anything from the DOT about progress in the grant selection process. “There have been no queries. I think they will make their their selections and just come out and announce them. We’ll either be in or out.”
Two of the grant applications were for highway or bridge projects: a request for funding of two bridges issued jointly by the MaineDOT and NHDOT; and funding for the Caribou Connector.
 
Russell Charette, MaineDOT mobility management director, oversaw the Caribou Connector request for $25 million that is part of a larger $132 million, two-bypass project in Aroostook County. Even though the Caribou Connector is nearly “shovel-ready” – the project is still waiting for final environmental approval – Charette said it was a scramble to assemble the request by the submission deadline. The DOT issued a lengthy list of criteria on which all ARRA projects will be assessed including: short- and long-term job creation; “livability”; economic stimulation; and cost-to-benefit analyses.
 
“The format and type of information required were a new area for us in terms of documentation,” said Charette. He said that the highly scrutinized ARRA grant process, its broad scope and emphasis on transparency and accountability will be likely to set the standard for government funding in the years to come.
 
MaineDOT also chose to bundle projects at Maine’s three deepwater ports under a single proposal titled “Revitalizing Maine’s Ports” in order to meet the grant application’s $20 million threshold. The resulting grant application requested $32 million to fund improvements to make Portland, Searsport and Eastport more competitive for marine freight. According to John Henshaw of the Maine Port Authority, one strategy was to make a case to the federal government of the project’s value by demonstrating how well the port investments dovetailed with the state’s long-term commitment to a three-port strategy.
 
“We decided to look at improvements that would be realistically possible rather than just put out a wish list,” said Henshaw.
 
Perhaps the most highly publicized ARRA requests were a series of three proposals submitted by NNEPRA for improvements and extension of its Amtrak Downeaster line. From the early talk of the high speed intercity rail program, Maine rail advocates had held high hopes for the state’s chances for funding to extend the line to Freeport and Brunswick. But for many, the sheer number of grant submittals and dollar amounts requested has been sobering.
 
The FRA also appears to have been overwhelmed by this flurry of interest in rail money. Soon after the submission deadline, the FRA quickly put off announcement of grant awards – originally scheduled for late 2009 – until February 2010. And there is word that the nature of many of the proposals veered from Congress’s original intent to fund construction of new high speed rail infrastructure.
 
“I think the question they face now is: Do we use this money to invest in a new direction for the country or do we try to improve existing rail service?” said Patricia Quinn of NNEPRA.
 
Moulton said the selection process will, no doubt, be colored by many factors. “How do you go about rating a port proposal like the Eastport Gateway against a highway project like the Caribou Connector?” asked Moulton. However you do, the volume of proposals, the limited dollars and the inevitable role of politics will make scoring grant requests a challenge. Still, he is hopeful Maine will get a fair share of the ARRA pot.
 
“When I look at the cost-benefit analysis, I feel good about our numbers,” said Moulton.
 
Maine’s TIGER & HSIRP candidates
 
Caribou Connector
Applicant: MaineDOT
Project cost: $132 million (including Presque Isle bypass not included in this grant)
Grant request: $25 million
Description: Construct a 4.28-mile highway
bypass to eliminate heavy truck traffic through downtown Caribou; project is expected to
enhance travel mobility and efficiency, and support regional economic growth within northeastern Aroostook County.
Jobs: Will support 130 annual jobs 2010-2012; between 595 and 1,133 jobs from 2010 to 2030.
Cost-benefit ratio: 1.29
 
Downeaster Rail Projects
(3 grant requests)
Applicant: NNEPRA
Project costs: $37.5 million - $38.4 million (Portland North Р submitted in two different proposal tracks); $52.6 million (Pan Am Line)
Total grant requests: $90 million
Description: Three separate HSIPR grant requests for improvements to Amtrak Downeaster include two applications (Track 1 and Track 2) to rehabilitate 30 miles of track between Portland and Brunswick to support passenger service to Freeport and Brunswick and a Track 2 Application for track and siding improvements along the Pan Am Line between Portland, Maine, and Plaistow, New Hampshire, to reduce travel time and increase capacity.
Jobs: Will support 364 construction jobs on Pan Am Line; 184 jobs on Portland North extension.
Cost-benefit ratio: 1.56 (Pan Am Line)
 
Eastport Gateway Project
Applicant: MaineDOT
Project cost: $62.2 million
Grant request: $57.7 million
Description: Rail line restoration and rehabilitation and transload facility to reconnect the port of Eastport to the North American rail network and provide multi-modal connectivity. Project area covers 27 miles in Washington County, Maine.
Jobs: Will support 323 construction jobs; between 21 and 323 annual operational jobs from 2010 to 2030.
Cost-benefit ratio: 2.39
 
Mountain Division Rail Restoration Project
Applicant: MaineDOT
Project cost: $31.4 million / grant request:
$28.5 million
Description: Restoration of freight and passenger service on 50-mile section of state-owned rail corridor connecting Portland, Maine, with active rail lines in New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as to Amtrak passenger rail service between Portland and Boston, Massachusetts.
Jobs: Will support between 8-60 construction jobs; 61 operation and maintenance jobs annually;
434 manufacturing jobs from 2010 to 2030.
Cost-benefit ratio: 1.59
 
Northern Tier Rail Preservation Project
Applicant: MaineDOT
Project cost: $23 million
Grant request: $23 million
Description: Acquisition of rail lines owned by Montreal Maine & Atlantic by the state and rehabilitation, preservation and enhancement of freight rail operations on 233.05 miles of main line and branch lines in rural Aroostook and Penobscot counties. Project would ensure “continuation of essential freight rail services” for 21 businesses along the main line segment and branches. It would “enhance the economic competiveness (and survival) of the region and its communities.”
Jobs: Will support 88 construction jobs; 85 operation and maintenance jobs initially; 400 operation and maintenance jobs by 2030.
Cost-benefit ratio: 1.73
 
Piscataqua River Multimodal Transportation Improvements
Applicants: NHDOT & MaineDOT
Project cost: $150 million
grant requests: Part A: $70 million;
Part B (NHDOT only): $10 million
Description: Rehabilitation of the Memorial and Sarah Mildred Long bridges that cross the Piscataqua River at the Maine-New Hampshire border. The two historic steel truss bridges tie together the communities of Kittery, Maine, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After the grant request was submitted, the Memorial Bridge was closed to all but bicycle and pedestrian traffic due to concerns about the deteriorating bridge structure. “Closing the Memorial Bridge will negatively impact both residents and visitors in the area who are now able to walk between Portsmouth and Kittery.”
Jobs: Will support 198 construction jobs on Memorial Bridge; 160 construction jobs on Sarah Long Bridge; and 67 construction jobs on Market Street Wharf.
Cost-benefit ratio: 1.5
 
Revitalizing Maine’s Ports
Applicant: MaineDOT and Maine Port Authority
Project cost: $102.9 million (including federal, state and private investments made between 1998 and 2009)
Grant request: $32 million
Description: Project would invest in Maine’s three major deepwater ports - Portland ($23 million); Searsport ($7 million); and Eastport ($2 million) - to increase the state’s capacity to handle marine freight. Investments would include handling equipment, storage facilities and conveyor systems at Eastport and Searsport. Also improvements in Portland to International Marine Terminal to increase freight handling capacity and to Ocean Gateway Pier 2B to increase cruise ship handling capacity and to create a cost-effective dredge disposal option (CAD cell) to preserve freight capacity of the port.
Jobs: Will support 434 construction jobs; 2,595 operations jobs through 2030.
Cost-benefit ratio: Portland Ocean Gateway 2.51; Portland CAD cell 1.35; Portland IMT 1.56; Searsport Mack Point 1.22; Eastport Estes Head 1.04.

Association News

Giving their all

MBTA Fall Convention raises $35,000 for Infrastructure Fund and scholarships

At the annual MBTA Fall Convention, MBTA members, family and friends gave their all for a good cause. More than 200 convened at the Harborside Hotel & Marina in Bar Harbor for two days of activities and transportation talk September 18-20, 2009.
 
“We are so lucky to have so many leaders from the business and community who give their all to the MBTA and show their support for the future of transportation in Maine,” said Debbie Dunlap Avasthi who served as this year’s convention committee chair and the weekend’s emcee.
 
The convention had its official kick-off at the lively Grand Opening Reception, sponsored by Chadwick BaRoss and Volvo. After dinner that evening, members got down to business at the annual MBTA Live Auction led by Ed Keenan of Keenan Auction Company. MBTA’ers bid on everything from heavy equipment rentals to a highly prized tuna fishing trip with Phil Grondin (he knows how to catch the big ones!) – and raised nearly $29,000 to support MBTA’s advocacy efforts on behalf of safer, more efficient transportation infrastructure in Maine.
 
Despite the late night Friday, conventioneers were out on the course at the Kebo Valley Golf Club for an early morning scramble start.
 
The golf tournament at Kebo, a gorgeous old course carved out of the challenging terrain of Mt. Desert Island, marked the beginning of an action-packed day. There was a sea kayaking expedition in Frenchman Bay, walking and bus tours of historic Bar Harbor and an expedition to a local winery and brewery for tastings and a tour.
 
After a delicious luncheon buffet, there was cribbage, of course. The annual tournament was again chaired by the Maine Turnpike Authority’s Paul Violette, who presided over victory, defeat and fun at the Harborside’s club house.
 
The back lawn of the club house was the site of the annual bocce ball tournament. That competition drew an enthusiastic crowd of MBTA’ers who competed under the watchful eye of tournament chair Tom Biegel of Shaw Brothers Construction.
 
The weekend was capped by an evening reception sponsored by the Hudson Asphalt Group and the annual silent auction that raised more than $4,000 for the infrastructure fund and the raffle, that raised more than $2,500 for the MBTA Educational Foundation.
 
“This has been a challenging year for the transportation industry, yet everyone has been incredibly generous in supporting this event and the causes it supports,” said event chair Avasthi.
 
Tournament awards & prizes
 
Golf Tournament
First place: John Wardwell, Damon Gray, Shawn Trojano, John Wardwell (the younger)
Second Place: Dan Healy, Darby Ludden, Mike Dow, John Byers
First Place-Mixed Foursome: Bruce Manzer, Crystal Manzer, Mike Marriner, Sheila Marriner, Jean Bridges
Closest to Pin-Women (drawing): Jo-Anne Ford
Closest to Pin-Men: Matt Gill
Longest Drive-Women: Jean Bridges
Longest Drive-Men: Scott Leach
 
Bocce Ball Tournament
First place: Tom Biegel and Tom Brady
Second place: Carolyn and Hannah Bess
Third place: Eleanora Ring and Penny Pierce
 
Cribbage Tournament
First place: Craig Shorey and Red Rancourt
Second place: John Pierce and Paul Knox
Third place: Paul Violette and Deb Rancourt
“Booby” prizes: Wayne Salter and Al Bridges; Kris Biegel and Mary Bess

Raffle winners
$500: Jean Beaudette
$250: Kevin Pyle
$150 L.L. Bean gift certificate: Chip O’Brien
 
Door prizes
Maggie Pierce, Paul Moore, Jean Bridges, Lauren Carrier, Doug Davidson, Ken Anderson, Malissa Moore, Paige Lane
 
MBTA 70th Trivia Challenge
Lauren Corey
 
Thank you, Convention Committee!
Chair: Debbie Dunlap Avasthi, Willis HRH
Members: Paul Beaudette, Nortrax Equipment Co., LLC; Dick Cadigan, Milton CAT; Lauren Corey, Macdonald Page & Co LLC; Greg Dore, Maine Chapter APWA; Roxanne Frenette, Maine Turnpike Authority; John Harbottle, The Rowley Agency, Inc.; Larry Hutchins, Tri State Materials; Tom Martin, NITRAM Excavation & General Contractors, Inc.; Randy Mace, R. C. Hazelton, Inc.; Bruce Manzer, Bruce A. Manzer, Inc.; Tharryn Smith, Cianbro; Joel Wardwell, The Lane Construction Corporation
 
2009 Event Chairs
Bocce Ball: Tom Biegel, Shaw Brothers Construction, Inc.
Cribbage: Paul Violette, Maine Turnpike Authority
Golf: Gary LaPierre, The Rowley Agency, Inc.
Auctioneer: Ed Keenan, Keenan Auction
 
Special thanks to the following convention sponsors:
 
Grand Opening Reception
CHADWICK BAROSS & VOLVO

Saturday Evening Reception
HUDSON ASPHALT
 
Entertainment & Event Sponsors
HNTB
THE LANE CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION
MAINE TURNPIKE AUTHORITY
STRESCON LIMITED
 
Transportation Sponsor
NORTRAX
 
Luncheon & Beverage Sponsors
WILLIS HRH
MILTONCAT
DIRIGO SLIPFORM
 
Gold
NITRAM Excavation & General Contractors
Sargent Corporation
Shaw Brothers Construction
T. Y. Lin International
 
Silver
Cianbro
Cross Insurance
R. C. Hazelton, Inc.
Irving Oil Commercial GP
Macdonald Page & Co LLC
Bruce A. Manzer, Inc.
Portland International Jetport
The Rowley Agency, Inc.
Wyman & Simpson, Inc.
 
Bronze
Berkley Surety Group
H. O. Bouchard, Inc.
CCB, Inc.
Ciment Quebec
Down East Emulsions, LLC
East Jordan Iron Works
GHM Insurance Agency
Jordan Equipment Co.
The Louis Berger Group
Maine Drilling & Blasting, Inc.
Everett J. Prescott, Inc.
RJM Consulting
Sebago Technics, Inc.
Skillings-Shaw & Associates
Thompson
Tri State Materials
White Bros., Inc.

Member News

 

On guard

Burns’ Fencing shows how good fences – and guardrail – make good neighbors, good friends and good business

by Kathryn Buxton
 
The story of Burns’ Fencing is, in many ways, the universal story of entrepreneurship. It’s also a story of friendship, family and hard work.
 
The company was founded in 1957 by Ed Burns who was no newcomer to the fencing business. Burns had learned the business working many years for Maine Line Fence Co., and in 1957, he saw an opportunity.
 
Just one year before, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, and Ed Burns saw the writing on the wall. There was going to be a lot of highway construction going on, and he wanted to be a part of it.
 
The company was a big part of the push to create the Maine links in the national interstate system. Over the next five decades the firm installed guardrail and fencing on highway projects throughout the state. While it was helping build Maine’s transportation network, Burns’ also was building a reputation as a top-quality fencing contractor. While the firm always did some residential and commercial fencing installations, during the early years guardrail was the big growth sector of the business.
 
“In those days, about 70 percent of the work was guardrail and 30 percent was fencing,” said Burns Fencing President Peter Levecque. He and his son (Burns’ vice president) Jason Levecque recently sat down to talk about the business in the boardroom of the firm’s Westbrook headquarters. The walls around them, covered in historic photos of the company’s crews in action, tell of the company’s past. A large screen video screen at one end of the room displays digital images of the company’s most recent projects.
 
Peter Levecque joined Burns’ Fencing in 1987, shortly after his father Aime Levecque bought the business from his longtime friend Ed Burns. Peter tells the story of how Ed and Aime first met during the 1950s. Aime Levecque was selling cars, and Ed Burns was buying one. Peter recites the story that has since become a part of the company lore. “Ed said, ‘I’ll buy the car from you if you come work for me.’” Aime came to work briefly for Maine Line, and while both men eventually moved on to other ventures, they remained friends.
 
Burns, said Peter, built a solid business that flourished for three decades during the glory days of roadbuilding in Maine. But by the mid-1980s, when Aime Levecque took the company’s reins, the business of fencing was changing.
“Burns’ had a great name and reputation, but the company needed a facelift,” said Peter, who has been with the company 22 years. He took over from his father as head of the firm in 1996.
 
Change of hands
 
During the Levecque years, the company has changed and expanded its product lines significantly. In the old days, there had been only a handful of major players in the fencing and guardrail business. Burns’ crews did a lot of traveling back then.
 
“We used to have crews all over the state, but that has changed,” said Peter, who added that more firms entering the industry during the past 20 years have made the business more competitive, and like so many aspects of the transportation industry, it has only grown more competitive during the recent recession. That means that bids are often won or lost on a difference of a few dollars.
 
“We used to all be so busy, but now everyone’s had to tighten their belts,” he said.
 
As the geographic area served by the company became more focused, Aime Levecque and his son responded by carving out new niches in the fencing industry. Residential and commercial work now account for approximately 60 percent of Burns’ business. The firm has established a specialty installing ornamental fencing, electric gates and access control systems – and that piece of the business has grown considerably during the past few years. The company has installed fencing on a number of high profile projects throughout the region: at Lowe’s, Walmart and Home depot stores and many new school sites, as well as the new ornamental fencing and electric gates at the entrance to Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth.
 
Guardrail continues to hold strong at 40 percent. Much of their guardrail work now centers on MaineDOT, Maine Turnpike and municipal roadwork sites in southern Maine, working with contractors such as White Brothers, R.J. Grondin & Sons, Shaw Brothers Construction and Dearborn Brothers Construction. Burns’ work can be seen on highways throughout southern and central Maine, including on the three-lane section of Maine Turnpike (they were part of two turnpike widening contracts).
 
The majority of the rail Burns’ installs is of the galvanized steel w-beam variety for roads and highways. (The most frequent change in that part of the business has been in safety improvements to the end treatments.) The company has been installing more pressure treated wood guardrail on commercial sites in recent years. That is, said Levecque, a choice more often than not made for aesthetic reasons.
 
Guardrail and fencing has a longer season than many aspects of the transportation industry. Work begins in April, weather permitting and continues all the way to December.
 
“Our goal is to keep crews on the job through Christmas,” said Jason Levecque, the third generation of Levecques to work in the business.
 
Still, like others in the transportation and construction industries, Burns’ has felt the effects of recent increases in the material costs. Peter Levecque talked about the dramatic price fluctuations for the steel w-beams, posts and end treatments needed for guardrail construction. He said that, while prices held steady this past year, they are expected to go up again as the economy recovers. Burns’ has stockpiled materials for the contracts it is committed to for the coming year.
 
“We have to try and protect ourselves from that volatility,” said Levecque.
 
The recession, felt keenly throughout the construction industry, has been evidenced at Burns’. Some parts of the business have slowed. Still, the company has a backlog of guardrail work that will keep their crews busy into next year – work that the company bid this year and will be completed in the coming construction season.
 
‘Good fences’
 
One of the biggest changes during the past 20 years is at the site of the company’s headquarters. Once confined to a small building and lot near the city center of Westbrook, Levecque and his father over the years purchased adjoining parcels of land and expanded. They bought the old Cumberland Mills train station – where Levecque’s grandfather first arrived when he moved to Maine from Canada.
 
The Levecques have expanded the Burns’ Fencing operation on the site to include a welding shop, a wood shop, a maintenance garage, a warehouse (housed in part of the old station) and a new headquarters building constructed in 2007, right about the time the company celebrated its 50th anniversary. Everything in the yard, from the carefully parked fleet of trucks to the stacks of galvanized steel guardrail stored on the site, is neat as a pin. Even though the rails that once ran through the site have been salvaged and replaced by turf and asphalt, visitors can still trace the course of the old rail lines in a diagonal pattern across the site.
 
Burns’ Fencing’s motto is “Good fences make good neighbors,” and Peter Levecque has always been one to practice what he preaches. The company frequently helps out the local community. They have sponsored sports teams and often donate their services when a worthy organization needs help with a fence. Peter Levecque has been active with the MBTA, as well. He has served on the MBTA board and was part of the committee that reviewed the organization’s dues schedule several years ago.
 
A good place to work
 
While the company has added new products and technology, Burns’ remains committed to quality work and proudly stands by every job they complete. The visitor gets the feeling that this constancy makes the company a good place to work and engenders a special sense of loyalty and dedication not only among its customers, but its employees. Why else could Burns’ proudly boast having a year round staff with more than 150 years of experience?
 
In several cases, Burns’ employees grew up in the business. Levecque’s son Jason joined the company in 2001 after graduating from the University of Southern Maine business school and is now company vice president. Wayne Price – who oversees one of Burns’ guardrail crews – followed his father into the business 33 years ago. (His father Leonard, was Ed Burns’ very first employee and for a time was a 25-percent-owner of the firm). Wayne’s brother Bob retired from the firm recently after 35 years at Burns’. And Jeremy Price, Wayne’s son, now works in the business, too.
 
“The Price family has been a big part of this business,” said Peter.
 
In other cases, Burns’ has attracted talented individuals who have been able to grow alongside the business, including Deborah White (23 years), Burns’ longtime office manager; Fred Boullie, guardrail crew member (20 years); estimator Michael O’Brien (18 years), who is also the go-to guy for electric gates and access control; and installation supervisor Jon McCrillis (16 years).
 
Working side-by-side, first with his father and now with his son, Peter said “is one of the greatest joys I have had in my 23 years. Not a lot of people get the chance to do that.” He talks about his father with great admiration. “My father was a great salesman and the things he taught me, I am able to pass down to my son,” said Peter.
 
All in all, the Levecques count themselves lucky to have an excellent workforce, good relationships with the region’s leading contractors, a solid reputation and a healthy backlog of work waiting to get underway next year.

“We are very fortunate,” said Peter Levecque.

 


Association News

 

MBTA celebrates 70:The whys of transportation

The first Maine Transportation Conference in 1950 asked all the big questions

In 1950, the Maine Good Roads Association was still a young organization (it had been founded just 11 years before) and many of the events on its annual calendar were just getting started. On December 15, 1950, the first Maine Highway Conference was held on the campus of the University of Maine. 
 
At the first Maine Transportation Conference, there was a keynote address by University of Maine Professor H. W. Leavitt titled “Why Highways?” That kicked off a two-day program of presentations that, in turn, made the case for rail and marine transport, as well. That first conference also featured a “technical track” – during which 60 students, transportation professionals and advocates heard about the latest trends in highway and bridge construction and materials testing.
 
The conference was sponsored by the Maine State Highway Commission, the University of Maine and the freshly formed Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers; Maine Good Roads was a major supporter of the event, with many of its members attending. In fact, the December issue of The Maine Trail published the full list of attendees. Included were Max Wilder and Lucius Barrows, two early Maine Good Roads members who continue to have a lasting legacy on transportation in Maine.
 
Every year, the MBTA presents the Max L. Wilder Award to the individual voted best Maine Transportation Conference speaker – the award is named for Wilder, the state’s bridge engineer from 1929 until 1962. Wilder was well known in his day for his dynamic speeches and thoughtful writing on the subject of bridges and transportation.
 
Lucius Barrows was the Maine State Highway Commission’s chief engineer from 1928 to 1955. Today, the MBTA annually awards a scholarship in his name to engineering students who have expressed an interest in pursuing a career in transportation.
 
Other interesting transportation facts from 1950:
 
The Maine Transportation Conference fell on rough times during the early 1990s when MaineDOT budgets, hard hit by the last recession, had to cancel the conference. Soon afterward, then-MaineDOT Deputy Commissioner Alden Small asked the MBTA to become co-sponsor the event and help with staffing and financial support. MBTA has co-sponsored the conference with MaineDOT and the Maine Section ASCE ever since.
 
The Maine State Highway Commission had jurisdiction over 9,300 miles of roads, the majority of them gravel.
Between 1913 and 1950, only 800 miles of Maine’s gravel roads had been built to modern standards called for by the State Highway Commission.
 
In 1950s dollars, The Maine Trail estimated it would take a whopping $8 million annually to properly treat those roads (far more than the annual State Highway Commission maintenance budget).
 
The service life of a properly treated gravel road was “about 15 years before maintenance and expenditures became excessive.”
 
In 1950, 1.9 million vehicles traveled on the Maine Turnpike, an increase of 15 percent over 1949. (Today more than 61 million vehicles travel the turnpike every year.)

 

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