Transportation on the ballot
On June 8, voters will decide the fate of Question 3, the $47.8 million transportation bond. Please Vote YES. By Thomas H. Martin, Jr.
Rural connections = rural jobs.
An interview with Sandford Blitz, chair of the newly formed Northern Border Regional Commission.
By Maria Fuentes
Bridging the gap.
Maine and New Hampshire study the future of two bridges that connect communities on both sides of the Piscataqua River.
Portland’s Bayside Trail.
A new trail demonstrates city’s “new urbanism.” By Barry Sheff, P.E.
Two bridges are replaced in Etna using an accelerated design.
Decision near in MBTA’s ‘Worst Road in Maine’ contest
The contest launched by MBTA earlier this year has earned fans and raised awareness.
The ‘Great Recession’ and beyond.
Economist Dr. Charles Colgan speaks at Cumberland County Meeting.
Flying colors. A $78 million expansion of the Portland International Jetport gets underway. By Kathryn Buxton
Selective catalytic reduction.
It’s coming . . . are you ready? By David Fenderson
Investing in Maine infrastructure, investing in Maine workers.
A look back at the 124th Maine Legislature. By David Cole
Transportation on the ballot: Question 3 (Bond Issue): Do you favor a $47,800,000 bond issue to create jobs in Maine through improvements to highways, railroads and marine facilities, including port and harbor structures, and specifying the allocation of $4,000,000 of the transportation bond approved by voters in November 2009 to be used for capital rail purposes?
On June 8, mainers vote on a $47.8 million bond – Question 3 on the ballot. Question 3 is part of a $108.3 million Jobs Bond package that the MBTA board has endorsed in the upcoming election. I will focus my comments on Question 3. If it passes, Maine will see more good-paying jobs and improved infrastructure for roads, rail and marine use. That is why it is important we get out the vote.
I believe the investments in Question 3 are critical for our state, and I am urging my family, friends, co-workers and business associates to vote yes on Question 3. I hope you will, too.
This was a challenging legislative session in Augusta. There were many who had hoped to see the legislature consider an increase in the fuel tax and possibly other long-term funding solutions on the table. But the recession, borrowing concerns and lackluster state revenues took center stage. While I firmly believe by fully funding transportation in Maine, we would see major economic gains for everyone in the state, it is hard to muster support for major transportation initiatives when people are talking about cuts in human services and education.
Yet, we did get a bond bill passed. We didn’t get everything we wanted. Still, in these times it was a significant victory to get a bond bill passed. Here’s what we did get:
The bond that goes before voters in June includes $24.8 million for highway projects, including reconstruction projects in: Farmingdale, Perry-Whiting, Chesterville, Farmington, and Jay-Wilton. Also, there are a number of capital paving projects included.
Another $6.5 million in the bond will go for a deepwater berth in Portland (Ocean Gateway) and $500,000 for the Small Harbor Improvement matching grant program.
There’s another $16 million for rail, including $7 million towards the purchase of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad’s 233-miles of track in Aroostook County, which its owner is on the verge of abandoning. Saving the Aroostook rail line proved to be a hard fought battle in the legislature. While almost everyone agrees that Maine needs to preserve this essential transportation resource, how to do it – and pay for it – was hotly debated.
Representative Ken Theriault (D-Madawaska) voiced what so many feel about the line: “It is imperative that we maintain these tracks. The number of businesses, communities and people that depend on these rails for the transport of lumber, wood chips, pulp wood, and heating fuels are too numerous to count. This abandonment will trickle down to many throughout the state. A state without rail in the north country would not be inviting to new businesses, and the end result will be lost jobs.”
The truth is, Ken could have been speaking about the challenges that face our entire transportation network. A state without a smooth running infrastructure – roads, rails, ports and aviation – makes it harder to keep existing businesses competitive and to attract new businesses. Lack of transportation funding results in lost jobs and a struggling economy. A yes vote on Question 3 will help mitigate these factors by giving Maine the means to invest $47.8 million in roads, rail and ports.
Questions 2, 4 and 5 are the other three ballot items the MBTA board is urging members to vote yes on. Question 2 will create jobs by investing $26.5 million in offshore wind projects, green jobs and energy savings at Maine’s public colleges and universities. Question 4 will stimulate the economy with $23.75 million in investments in R&D, fishing, agriculture, dairy, lumbering and redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Station. Passage of Question 5 will invest $10.25 million in Maine’s agriculture industry and water resources. All together, these three bond issues will leverage $97.75 million in federal and other funds.
This is my last column as MBTA president, and I want to say “thank you” to all of you who I have worked with this past year.
We’ve accomplished a great deal. We worked with MaineDOT to put $137 million in federal stimulus dollars to work to get Maine people working. We helped pass a $71.25 million transportation bond issue last November. We helped to defeat two referendums that would have had devastating consequences for transportation funding at the state and local level. Finally, we made more people aware of the transportation issues facing our state through advocacy and initiatives like our ongoing FixMaineRoads.org social media campaign.
Throughout all of these efforts, I have enjoyed working with the board, our membership and the MBTA staff. And special thanks go out to Greg Dore, our past president, for his guidance and support this past year. I know you will continue to support my successor as MBTA president, Deborah Dunlap Avashti, as she takes up the charge. Thanks for a great year!
Rural connections = Rural jobs
This spring, Sandford ‘Sandy’ Blitz of Hudson, Maine, was named as federal co-chair of the newly formed Northern Border Regional Commission, a federal economic development task force with $30 million in annual funding authority. The commission is charged with bringing jobs and economic opportunity to the rural regions of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. Maine Better Transportation Association’s Maria Fuentes sat down with Blitz to talk about his new job.
Maria Fuentes: In your new job, is there a particular area / issue that you would like to address first? Why?
Sandford Blitz: When I was first nominated by President Obama, I was asked to consider what the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) should do in order to alleviate the economic distress in the four-state region. I said this: we must invest in three areas: 1) transportation infrastructure 2) energy projects that will lower costs and 3) broadband/telecommunications.
The reality, of course, is that first I have to create an organization. The governing body of the commission is comprised of the governors within our region – Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York – and myself, as the federal co-chair. The governing board will set the commission’s priorities, and then I will have to implement those. To do that, I will develop an infrastructure, hire staff, and we will hit the ground running.
After initial staffing and office needs are met, the commission will need to develop and implement a procedure to award grants prior to September 30, 2010.
The commission is mandated to expend at least 40 percent of the funding we receive from Congress on infrastructure, and that can mean investments in transportation, general infrastructure such as water and wastewater, telecommunications or any combination of those three.
Fuentes: You’ve lived in New York and Washington. Now, you have been at home in Hudson for more than 25 years. How does that urban-rural experience affect your new job outlook?
Blitz: I grew up in New York and lived in Connecticut and Washington before moving to Maine. At the beginning of my career, when I was working in more urban areas, HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) was a critical federal agency, more geared toward inner city, urban areas. In Maine and in the commission’s region, HUD doesn’t have that kind of impact. But in the last 25 years, I have learned that no matter where you are located, and no matter what the landscape is, the problems and challenges are basically the same. While the scope and emphasis might be different, the core challenges are still there. For example, in urban areas, a great transportation challenge is managing congestion. In rural areas, connectivity is the critical issue.
If you look at social issues, there are also similarities. Depression and poverty happen in both the city and the country – and they are equally devastating to the people experiencing it.
The bottom line is: We have far more in common than we have differences.
Fuentes: Are issues facing northern/rural Maine different than those facing the other states in the region?
Blitz: The issues facing northern/rural Maine are similar to other parts of the commission’s region. In fact, the region was created and designed to purposely look at areas of the country that are sharing the same challenges, specifically suffering from chronic and contiguous long-term economic distress. By design, the different regions were created so that there was similarity within them.
Prior to 2008, there were four commissions in the country; in 2008, when the NBRC was created, Congress created two others as well: the Southwest Border and the Southern Crescent.
Fuentes: Are they different than those faced by other rural states/areas of the country?
Blitz: There are some differences among the commissions. Some of the regions have more states within them. For instance, the Appalachian commission includes 13 states. But what is similar about each of these regions is that chronic and contiguous long-term economic distress. So again, we are more alike than we are different. However, in relation to the other rural states/areas of the country, commission regions suffer increased economic distress.
Fuentes: Can transportation bolster a rural economy? How?
Blitz: As the Northeast Can Am Connections study revealed, without strong intermodal transportation connections, we cannot have a viable economy. Transportation is absolutely critical to the well-being of the economy of any region. One example happened within the Appalachian Regional Commission, which has been around for a long time. That commission – over the course of some years - expended $6.8 billion of their appropriated funding to create an Appalachian Highway System within 13 states. I believe that system has transformed the region.
Fuentes: The legislation creating the commission identifies priorities that include resource conservation and open space preservation. How do you balance the economic and conservation needs?
Blitz: Much of the region’s economy is based on natural resources: farming, forestry, fishing, marine resources and tourism. In order for these major sectors of the region’s economy to sustain themselves, there needs to be a protective conservation element. Some such conservation elements exist now and have been successful at conserving resources while driving the regional economy.
For example, anti-clear cutting and other conservation measures, many self-imposed by the industry, have served to sustain the “North Woods” region that covers the four states of the NBRC. This is the largest, privately held, sustained forest in the United States, and is a major sector of the region’s economy.
Fuentes: What role do highways play in economic development of a rural area where congestion isn’t the typical issue?
Blitz: The issue is connectivity. If we don’t have good highways, we can’t get our goods to market. It is as simple as that. Additionally, lack of infrastructure holds back development in rural regions; the private sector doesn’t want to invest in areas with substandard infrastructure. Even in today’s world of internet sales, once the purchase is made, the product still has to be delivered to the customer on our transportation system.
Fuentes: You want to create jobs in a 36-county area by investing in infrastructure improvements. What kinds of investments do you envision that could include?
Blitz: The commission – by law – must expend 40 percent of its appropriations on three types of infrastructure. These are transportation infrastructure including rail, port, highways, air; service infrastructure such as water and sewer lines; and telecommunications infrastructure.
I am anxious to get going so that we can begin awarding grants in these areas.
Fuentes: What are your thoughts on an east-west highway for Maine? Completion of the interstate (north-south highway)? Is this critical for rural Maine and its neighbors?
Blitz: I spent more than 10 years running an organization with the idea of building out an east-west highway across the state of Maine, and in doing so, worked with folks in northern Maine who understood the need for a north-south highway. I still believe in this. Maine needs this. It would be of great benefit to an improved economy and to the overall well-being of our state. An east-west highway would connect us not only to our neighbors east and west, but also Canada. Our efforts showed us that we could – and should – create an economic region from Halifax to Montreal and Toronto. That region would serve 20 million people. We aren’t talking about 1.3 million people in Maine; we are talking about 20 million people connected by a region. This would provide connections to termini on each end that are more prosperous than the states and provinces in between. Imagine that we can create prosperity and reorient the economy that will eventually connect this region to Europe and the Far East.
That is also true of a north-south highway. That region [northern Maine] of the state has been at a disadvantage because of a lack of access to markets and connectivity. We need to change that.
Fuentes: How do ports and rail fit into the picture?
Blitz: Because of the way our region is configured, there aren’t many ports, except here in Maine. Our ports in Maine are critical – they enable other states to ship goods without going through congested ports like Boston or New York. This is of benefit to the entire region. Certainly in regard to rail, as the Northeast Can Am Connections study points out, there are holes in our rail infrastructure that must be completed and improved.
Fuentes: Do you have a Canadian counterpart?
Blitz: No, but my experience in the last 25 years has proven to me the importance of improving and increasing our relationship with our Canadian neighbors. To reorient our economy, we must take advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and increase trade with our neighbors in Canada, including in service areas. A wonderful example is happening here in Bangor where a local architect has partnered with a Canadian firm, and they share work and resources, depending on their needs.
Fuentes: How will you bring to bear your experience in government?
Blitz: My experience in government started when I served as chief of staff to the mayor of Bridgeport – the largest city in Connecticut. I then went to Washington, D.C., where I served in the commissioner’s office at the Office of Public Building Services, under the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). I served in various capacities for eight years at GSA and became the Economic Development Representative for the Economic Development Administration within the U.S. Department of Commerce. This experience in the federal government has been invaluable to me in dealing with various bureaucracies and intricacies of federal legislation and regulations.
Fuentes: What do you see as the most difficult element of your new job?
Blitz: There are challenges associated with any effort like this, but I am more interested in focusing on the opportunities. I believe that bringing Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont together with the assistance of the federal government, will result in farsighted, well-conceived approaches to bring opportunity to the northern border. Additionally, at this time of increased economic distress, the NBRC will be another vehicle, with resources, to assist in the creation of much needed jobs, in a region under enormous economic strain.
We will be working with all industries within the region to assist them in whatever way the commission can in order to sustain and expand their economic opportunities.
The commission represents a unique and invaluable resource to improve the lives of all who live in this broad region.
Bridging the gap
After losing out on a TIGER grant, MaineDOT and NHDOT wrestle with funding options to address problems with the Memorial and Sarah Long bridges
Questions still remain as to what will happen with the Memorial Bridge and Sarah Mildred Long Bridge that span the Piscataqua River between Kittery, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Officials from both states’ departments of transportation have been wrestling with how to address the bridge needs of the two communities
since February of this year. That is when the NHDOT and MaineDOT learned that their joint grant request for $70 million to fix Memorial and Sarah Long bridges was rejected in the first round of TIGER (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery) grant funding.
What to do about the aging bridges is the focus of the Maine-New Hampshire Connections Study due to be completed in July of this year. Still, area residents and elected officials, particularly on the New Hampshire side of the river, are anxious to keep their funding options open. In mid-May, the New Hampshire Senate voted to approve an amendment to the Department of Transportation’s 10-year plan. It allows the NHDOT to seek up to $45 million in additional bonds to replace the Memorial Bridge. That preemptive move came because there are concerns among New Hampshire state leaders about securing funding for the bridge. “Our fear is that if we were to wait. . . a year from now, we may have to close the Memorial Bridge,” New Hampshire Senator Martha Fuller Clark told those present at a May 6 Portsmouth meeting about the bridge. NHDOT Commissioner George Campbell has since stated that NHDOT fully supports completion of the joint bridge study that is currently underway, per both states’ December 2008 Memorandum of Agreement.
Meanwhile, according to Gerry Audibert, MaineDOT project manager for the Maine-New Hampshire Connections Study, the study is expected to be completed by July of this year. The study was begun in March 2009 and has been exploring options for the future of the two bridges and working with community members to “identify and evaluate feasible long-term transportation strategies that facilitate the safe, secure and effective multimodal movement of people and goods across and upon the Piscataqua River,” according to the study’s purpose and need statement.
No recovery funds
MaineDOT and NHDOT submitted a bi-state application for rehabilitation of the Memorial Bridge last September under the American Resource and Recovery Act (ARRA) TIGER grant program, knowing that nationwide competition would be fierce. The USDOT announced in February that the two-state bridge project had not received a TIGER grant. This wasn’t a complete surprise, considering how competitive the process was. The $70 million joint grant request was one of more than $50 billion in projects vying for $1.5 billion in recovery grant funds. “Still, only the top three percent of projects were funded,” said Audibert.
Audibert said a second round of TIGER funding has become available, but the pot of money is much smaller (only $600 million, minus $140 million for “rural” projects) and competition for the funding will be even greater. Maine has not yet decided if it will apply for TIGER II for this effort.
State officials and FHWA will now complete the Maine-New Hampshire Connections Study. That study is being followed closely by residents on both sides of the river, said Audibert, and has yielded important information. With an active steering committee and stakeholder committee, as well as more than 15 public meetings to date, an abundance of data and input have been gleaned from the two communities.
“The study has gone very well and the level of interest and input we’ve gotten has been terrific,” said Audibert. He said that the study included a bicycle/pedestrian survey that yielded valuable information, and community forums have given the two-state team a strong sense for the historic and community needs on both sides of the river. Both bridges are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and in 2009 the National Trust for Historic Preservation added Memorial Bridge to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, although the latter designation has no legal significance.
“The Memorial Bridge was the largest vertical lift bridge of its day – it had a twin on the West Coast. It was dedicated in honor of the region’s World War I veterans,” said Audibert. Working with the committees and the public, study leaders have learned that the Memorial Bridge and the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge each play a different but important role in connecting the communities of Kittery and Portsmouth.
HNTB Corporation, of Westbrook, is leading a team of eight other consultants in performing the fast-track study for MaineDOT and NHDOT. A preliminary report released in early May listed the potential cost of repair or replacement of the two bridges at between $190 million and $290 million. The costs will likely change as the alternatives are refined and optimized. The final report is due by the end of June.
There is definitely a sense of urgency on both sides of the river. The condition of the bridges, particularly of Memorial Bridge, is a concern.
“It’s in very poor shape,” said Audibert. The bridge was closed for six weeks last year for emergency repairs to a truss plate. When it reopened, a three-ton weight limit was imposed. That weight limit cannot be reduced any further, and the life expectancy of the bridge now stands at no more than three years.
The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is also in poor condition. Although its life expectancy is longer than that of Memorial Bridge, it has an expected remaining life of five to seven years without substantial investment or it will risk closure as well. As a result of last summer’s detailed inspection, that bridge is now posted at 20 tons.
The combination of investment needs and timing is of significant concern to all involved. While the study will determine the long-term solution, the implementation of the solution will be equally, if not more difficult, to achieve. While MaineDOT is committed to completing the study, it may not be able to meet everyone’s needs. MaineDOT faces a $3 billion unmet need over the next 10 years, so difficult prioritization decisions must be made.
Portland’s Bayside Trail
New urbanism in Maine’s business, financial and retail capital
By Barry Sheff, P.E.
The city of portland web site proclaims the city’s goals and focus as “strengthening a remarkable city, building a community for life.” A recent example of “building community” is the Bayside Trail project, where municipal leaders, nonprofit organizations and the public have combined efforts to enhance the city’s liveability and support the tax base.
This summer, when construction of the Bayside Trail is complete, connections with the Eastern Promenade, Back Cove and Deering Oaks Park will be made, resulting in a bike/pedestrian trail loop around the peninsula – an idea set forth in 1905 in the city’s original parks plan.
Key players in making the Bayside Trail a reality are the city, the Maine Department of Transportation MaineDOT), Portland Trails, The Trust for Public Land, the Bayside Neighborhood Association and local business leaders – all of which have enthusiastically supported the project. Nan Cumming, executive director of Portland Trails, explained that pursuing this vision began in earnest more than 10 years ago. “Right from the start, this was an exciting and unique project full of challenges and opportunities,” Cumming said.
The project helps create a perimeter trail around the city. Rick Knowland, a senior planner with the city, explained, “The city’s vision was rooted in A New Vision for Bayside, adopted by the city council in 2000, to transform the area into a desirable location for multiple uses by providing office, retail and residential space.”
“Part of the Bayside vision,” Cumming added, “was multi-modal uses – highlighting transit, biking and walking.” Those multi-modal uses are essential aspects of the focus more and more cities have on “new urbanism,” defined by The Congress for New Urbanism as “walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development promoting sustainable communities and healthier living conditions.”
A century of planning
As early as 1905, Portland’s Parks Department noted an interest in creating a trail to link the city’s parks. Decades passed, and in 1987, Portland officials presented the Portland Shoreway Access Plan, that outlined opportunities to link the city’s park spaces. This planning effort gave birth to Portland Trails, providing the city with a nonprofit organization devoted to advocating for trails.
Over the next 10 years, trails around Back Cove, Capisic Pond and the Eastern Prom all became reality. Once the Eastern Prom Trail was open, thoughts turned once again to linking the city’s parks, including connecting the Eastern Prom to Deering Oaks Park.
Accomplishing that connection meant going right through the Bayside neighborhood, which up to that point, had not been a focus for the city. There were also potential environmental challenges as a result of decades of industrial operations. Forging through Bayside would not be easy. Over the years, the area had deteriorated and commercial development had slowed to a standstill. (Portland applied for and received an EPA brownfields grant to reclaim the site in 1996.) The city also needed to acquire the Union Branch rail line that ran through the neighborhood in order for the project to move forward.
MaineDOT stepped in to assist the city by purchasing the rail corridor. Then, in a land swap, the city purchased the corridor from MaineDOT and took full title in 2005. The city also acquired the rail yard parcels, completing the contiguous land chain between Elm Street and the Back Cove Trail. The Trust for Public Land assisted the city by purchasing land on Riverside Street to provide opportunities to relocate some of the industrial activity.
Bayside is located within a 100-year flood elevation, as defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Both Back Cove, a tidal body of water, and I-95 impact the site’s hydrology and create a “damming” effect. The shallow groundwater level – within approximately five feet of ground surface – creates storm water management challenges. At the same time, site soils had been impacted by years of industrial operations. Hydrogeologic studies and soil investigations revealed that contaminants were stable: they do not dissolve in water and therefore would not contaminate groundwater. Of concern, however, is skin contact and ingestion. To prevent either, a soil barrier has been constructed over the site.
All of these factors created a complex range of permitting requirements for the local site plan and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection storm water permit. Woodard & Curran led the permitting and design efforts, developing the construction documents in collaboration with other design professionals. To address the storm water challenges, Woodard & Curran applied low impact development (LID) strategies to manage storm water as close to where it falls, thereby minimizing runoff. The trail will have a series of rain gardens incorporating plantings and soil media to help treat the water.
The Bayside Trail construction will be completed this summer. (Shaw Bros. Construction is the primary contractor on the project.) It has been funded through state and federal sources; however, private fundraising is still an important part of the picture. “We’re in the midst of raising $1.5 million for amenities,” Cumming explained, “so the trail will have finishing touches – trees and plantings, signage and public art. A maintenance endowment will also be needed to help the city maintain the trail.”
Everyone involved sees MaineDOT’s support, particularly in helping the city purchase the rail corridor, as pivotal to the project’s success. Jim Gooch of the Trust for Public Land added, “Without any one of the partners, this project probably wouldn’t be taking place. The lesson here is that no one entity can create something like this on its own.”
Cumming agreed: “We’ve all shared in the heavy lifting. There have been challenges, and we’ve turned to one another to resolve them.”
Without this “heavy lifting,” it’s very likely that the area would have been parceled out, and the opportunity for an important bicycle-pedestrian link in a mixed-use neighborhood development – and the opportunity to “strengthen a remarkable city, build a community for life” – would have been lost.
Barry Sheff, P.E., is senior vice president at Woodard & Curran.
Accelerated design schedule speeds bridge replacements
Two i-95 bridges over Route 143 in Etna were completed on time late last year under an accelerated design phase using federally earmarked, high priority funding.
As a condition of awarding the design contract to the engineering firm Erdman Anthony of Rochester, New York, MaineDOT required the design phase be completed in three months, rather than the six to 12 months typical for a project this size. During the initial stage, Erdman Anthony not only developed the design, the firm also completed detailed life-cycle cost analyses of several alternatives, an FHWA requirement to justify design recommendations to replace the structure.
Because the existing 135-foot, three-span structures had sufficiency ratings of greater than 50, it was necessary to develop much shorter single-span alternatives with lower life-cycle costs when compared to rehabilitation alternatives. Additionally, rehabilitation alternatives would not eliminate the non-standard bridge under-clearance, that showed considerable impact damage from large trucks.
After MaineDOT approved Erdman Anthony’s preliminary design, the firm moved directly into final design to meet the deadline. “Without the support and the quick decision making by MaineDOT, we would not have met the deadline,” said Frank Dahar, P.E., project manager for Erdman Anthony.
The replacement bridges are 78 feet long, with 40-foot-wide composite steel plate girder superstructures supported on T-wall wrapped integral abutments on piles. The need to improve deficient bridge under-clearances and minimize impact to I-95 traffic required that the superstructure be designed with shallow, grade 50 steel plate girders.
Erdman Anthony also provided construction administration services during construction. Wyman & Simpson of Richmond constructed the project, and Wendell Harriman of MaineDOT was the resident engineer during construction. Construction cost of the twin I-95 structures was $3.65 million.
Decision near in MBTA’s ‘Worst Road in Maine’ contest
So far, the contest launched by MBTA earlier this year earned nearly 1,100 Facebook fans from across the state. It also has cast the media spotlight on the issue of Maine’s crumbling roads
Routes 1 and 191 in Washington County and Route 115 in Gray were nominated multiple times. So was River Road in Windham. The nominations for the MBTA’s first annual “Worst Road in Maine” contest came from almost every corner of the state.
“Then there was Dexter Road in Cambridge, submitted by a driver who sent photos of grass growing from cracks in the pavement. The diversity of the entries and the level of frustration expressed by drivers underscored the critical need we have to fix Maine’s roads,” said MBTA Executive Director Maria Fuentes.
“Bad roads are a major concern for Mainers, and that shows by how fast our fan base grew over the course of the contest,” said Fuentes. “We even had people nominate all of the roads in their towns.”
Maine, in fact, has some of the worst roads and bridges in the region: 26 percent of the state’s federal-aid highways have poor pavement. That’s up from just 5 percent poor pavement in the 1990s.
The contest was launched during early spring 2010 and entries were due by May 18. To enter the contest, drivers were required to submit either a photo or video of the bad road and a brief description of why the road was so bad. Contest rules were posted on a special contest web site (www.FixMaineRoads.org
) and many entries were submitted via MBTA’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/FixMaineRoads
MBTA is currently verifying the entries and plans to announce the winner and two runners up in early June. Photos poured in during the final two weeks of the contest, thanks to a spate of news coverage on the state’s TV news channels and daily newspapers. News of the contest was even picked up in USA Today.
The winner will receive a $250 gift certificate for car repair. “That happens to be the amount a recent study said Mainers pay in extra vehicle repair costs due to bad roads,” said Fuentes.
The great recession and beyond
USM economist Colgan takes MBTA members on a tour of life after economic downturn
Charles Colgan had the crowd from the very beginning. “I’m all for better transportation,” said the University of Southern Maine economist at the March 11 Cumberland County of the Maine Better Transportation Association in South Portland. The problem is, he said, “people don’t always realize you have to pay for it.”
Colgan’s talk was a command performance. He had spoken at the 2009 MBTA Cumberland County Meeting, right as the state and national economy were facing a long uphill climb out of the recession. At this year’s meeting, many MBTA members had returned to hear about the progress Maine is making in emerging from what he has dubbed “The Great Recession. . . and the deepest recession since World War II.”
The bottom line? Maine can expect to benefit from a 2-to-3 percent increase in the gross domestic product (GDP) for 2010. The outlook will continue to improve into early 2011, when the region’s economy will be “out of reverse but not into second” gear. He said by the final two quarters of 2011, Maine could be into “third and fourth gears.”
The relatively short turnaround – only 10 quarters to recovery compared to 20 quarters in the recession of 1990-91 – is “a significant victory for the Maine economy.”
Colgan talked about the “bubble economy” and its effect on key indicators, including GDP and investment trends. He also talked about the positive role of federal stimulus programs that had helped stop the downward trends, but which were not substantial enough to generate significant numbers of new jobs.
Maine’s “new economy,” according to Colgan, will see new jobs primarily coming from the education and health sectors (11,700 new jobs), leisure and hospitality (6,940) and professional and business sectors (6,450) by the fourth quarter of 2013. Growth in retail (3,400), manufacturing (3,300), government (2,950 ) and construction jobs (2,190) will be more modest.
Colgan said traffic on the Maine Turnpike, a bellwether of the state’s economy, is expected to increase by 3.7 percent in 2011.
Then the economist turned his attention to opportunities for Maine in the new economy. He said Maine will face challenges in key sectors – all affected by transportation: energy, climate, information and livability-mobility.
“Transportation has a major role to play in all of this,” Colgan said. Energy will continue to be a major hurdle, because currently more than 60 percent of the state’s energy is expended for transportation. That will become more problematic as energy prices trend upward and the nation and the state shifts to alternative fuels, placing pressures on the funding of transportation maintenance and improvements.
Climate will be a concern, as the state begins to experience the effects of global warming. “Warmer and wetter weather” will increase transportation maintenance costs. Finally, the state will have to address mobility and livability issues in its most densely populated regions by integrating land use and transportation planning.
Traditional industries including forest products, agriculture, marine technology and aquaculture will continue to be economic mainstays. The state will need to foster growth in key industries to fully realize its potential in the new economy – composites and new materials, information technology and biotechnology.
Ultimately, to meet these challenges, Colgan said, Maine will need to invent new models for pricing roads that are not based on the gas tax. “Some are going to be more unpopular than others, but that will not overcome the necessity. The existing funding model is unsustainable.”
Even before Colgan began his tale of economic recovery, the mood in the room was decidedly upbeat. More than 120 MBTA members and friends were in attendance, and MBTA President Tom Martin presided over a program that included John Duncan’s presentation of a new transportation video produced by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System (PACTS), Colgan’s speech and the announcement of the 50/50 Raffle. Tim Folster’s name was drawn from the entries, and he won $294 while an equal share went to support MBTA Educational Foundation’s Scholarship Fund.
With a recovering regional economy, positive passenger trends and the blessing of the financial markets, expansion of the Portland International Jetport gets underway.
By Kathryn Buxton
It’s mid-morning on a recent Friday. The scene inside and outside the terminal at the Portland International Jetport could be described as controlled chaos. Inside, passengers are lined up waiting to pass through airport security. Outside, a major construction site wraps around the airport’s parking and terminal areas, heavy equipment rumbles around, preparing the site for a 137,000-square-foot, $78-million expansion that officially broke ground in early May and will come close to doubling the terminal size.
To Paul Bradbury, the jetport’s director, the chaos is just a sign of long awaited progress story of passenger growth. “After years of planning and design, I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be here today,” Bradbury told the crowd assembled at the groundbreaking.
Bursting at seams
Maine’s largest regional airport has been bursting at its seams for several years now, a victim of its own success and the challenge of increased security demands after the 9/11 terrorism attacks in 2001. Passenger traffic has shown a remarkable increase since 1995 – 57 percent. The biggest increases came after the jetport landed two low-cost carriers resulting in a 17 percent increase in enplanements in 2007 after Jet Blue began offering flights from Portland; and another 6.8 percent jump in 2008 after Air Tran launched its service to the city.
Even last year, when the nation was struggling to recover from a devastating recession and comparable regional airports saw major declines, passenger traffic held relatively steady at Portland. The city lost only 2 percent of its annual passenger traffic. Meanwhile, Manchester, New Hampshire, dropped 14.5 percent and Providence, Rhode Island, dropped 17.8 percent through December 2009. Even Boston’s Logan Airport saw a bigger cut, dipping 3.7 percent. Nationally, air passenger traffic declined 10.4 percent during the same period.
The possibility that Portland could experience a similar decline doesn’t appear to worry Bradbury. With the expansion finally underway and relief from terminal overcrowding in sight, Bradbury, in fact, couldn’t be more positive. His office on the second floor of the old terminal is packed with giant charts depicting passenger travel trends and architectural plans. Bradbury believes Portland stands to gain another half a million annual passengers in the years to come.
Eye to future gains
Bradbury expects Portland’s passenger count to hit 1.8 million this year followed by slow-but-steady gains in the years to come. “When I look at MaineDOT’s projections based on population growth, that sweet spot is 2.1 million passengers,” he said.
Ralph Nicosia-Rusin, airport capacity program manager for the New England Division of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), agrees. Portland still has room to grow within its catchment area. Still, he wants it made clear the expansion’s purpose and financing is not reliant on future growth. The chief impetus for the expansion is to allow the airport to “catch up with the growth it has already experienced” and to position it for the near future.
A lot of the strain on the airport’s existing facilities results from passengers leaving at peak early morning hours. “The market is a follow-the-sun market,” Bradbury recently told the press. “We are the start and the end of aviation in the U.S. so we start with the sun. We have a very early morning push of 6 a.m. to 7.30 a.m., and that’s our peak volume time of day, and during that peak hour, that’s where the facilities are most constrained and we need the additional capacity, and you have to meet that because that’s when the flights need to go out to meet their connections in other parts of the country.”
“All we’re trying to do is size the airport appropriately for the next 10 years or so,” said Bradbury.
The FAA forecasts Portland’s growth to be in line with air passenger trends throughout the region. Region-wide, New England airports are expected to serve about 21 million passengers this year. By 2020, there will be about 26.6 million enplanements in the region and 33.3 million by 2030.
Officials report the $78 million project is the largest in Maine history. The work includes the addition of three new boarding gates, eight passenger screening lanes, a new pedestrian “sky bridge” connecting the jetport’s five-story parking garage with the terminal and renovation of 10,000 square feet of existing terminal space. Also included is a new in-line explosives detection system (EDS) that will streamline passenger check-in (the $9.1 million cost for the EDS system is being covered by a Transportation Safety Administration grant). Currently, passengers have to check their baggage and carry it to the explosives detection system in the lobby. Passenger screening lanes would increase from four to eight, allowing the jetport to more efficiently screen the volume of passengers who leave early every morning. The project also includes construction of a $3.6 million multi-lane access road.
Mike White of White Bros. Inc., whose company completed several projects at the airport during the past 25 years, said this project is not only larger than anything the airport has done before, it has special challenges. Most recently White Bros. completed work on the airport’s general aviation apron, and White said the fact that so much of the work will take place within the airport’s security areas will present a major challenge to project contractors.
Turner Construction, a national firm with regional offices in Boston, is the primary contractor. Gorham Sand & Gravel has been hired for the dirt work and Turner says it is still in the process of negotiating with local subs. Construction is due to be complete in early 2012 and is expected to create about 100 jobs, about 90 of them estimated to go to Maine workers.
One particularly innovative aspect of the project will be the new geothermal heating and cooling system. That portion of the expansion project is being funded by a $2.53 million FAA VALE (Voluntary Airport Low Emissions) program matching grant. It is one of only two VALE grants awarded to date in New England. (Knox County Regional Airport in Rockland received $150,000, also for a geothermal HVAC system.) The jetport is putting up a local match of $133,000 for the energy-efficient system.
Market time out
The airport expansion was originally scheduled to be completed in 2009, but was sidetracked by the global recession. The investment firm Bear Stearns had been slated to issue the bonds, but collapsed in the economic meltdown. The city of Portland put the project on hold until the financial markets had improved. In April, J.P. Morgan, which bought Bear Stearns, became the underwriter for the $70.1 million in 30-year general airport revenue bonds, and the issue earned strong ratings from the two major investor services, Moody’s (A3) and Standard & Poor’s (BBB+).
“The positive outlook reflects the likelihood of an upgrade if the airport meets its financial performance, maintains its liquidity position and enplanement trends remain favorable,” Standard & Poor’s wrote in its analysis. Moody’s cited the jetport’s “conservative debt structure,” growth of low-cost carrier service and “resilience through the economic downturn.” On the strength of those recommendations, the bonds sold out quickly.
That Portland’s passenger numbers remained relatively strong for the past two years, despite the downturn, was a key factor.
The ‘comfort factor’
The fact the project is mostly user funded was important in gaining support for the expansion from the city or Portland, the FAA and bond markets. The bonds will be repaid from a $4.50 fee collected on every ticket sold.
A user-fee approach is what makes the numbers work – and gives passengers value for dollar.
“The passengers are buying this improvement in service,” said the FAA’s Nicosia-Rusin who describes the investment in chicken-and-egg terms. The money invested now, will help the jetport retain its customer base – and its diversity of air service providers. Currently, seven airlines offer flights out of Portland, though that will decrease by one when the planned merger of United Airlines and Continental takes place later this year.
The competition among air carriers helps keep ticket prices low, and combined with shorter driving times and improved security processing times will contribute to what Nicosia-Rusin calls the “comfort factor.”
“Air travelers will still have access to a small airport and if that airport can remain efficient, they’d rather travel [to the Jetport] than drive 90 or so miles to Boston,” said Nicosia-Rusin. “That gives you an environmental advantage, as well.”
Selective catalytic reduction
It’s coming…are you ready?
Tips for operating under new EPA emissions standards
• Make sure DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) is high quality and meets federal standards.
• Top off tanks during routine maintenance and inspections.
• Carry back-up 2.5-gallon bottle in truck to avoid engine derating if fluid runs out.
By David Fenderson, Windward Petroleum
Since the early 1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been pushing the requirements for reductions in particulate and NOx emissions for modern diesel engines. These reductions are targeted to reduce the environmental impact and the health hazards associated with diesel emissions.
The 2010 requirements are .20 (g/hp-hr), an 83 percent reduction, and .01 PM (g/hp-hr), a 90 percent reduction since 1994. One 2010 on-highway engine will emit the same amount of pollutants as 65 of the equivalent engines that were built in 1994.
Many changes have occurred in both engine technology and fuels in the last 15 years to meet these stringent EPA requirements.
Most notably, the sulfur content of diesel fuels has dropped from 500 PPM in 1993 to 15 PPM in 2006. Additionally engine manufacturers have employed changes in engine timing, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and diesel exhaust particulate filtration. Most recently, selective catalytic reduction (SCR) has changed to meet these mandated emission levels.
SCR will be the most noticeable change in truck engine design and performance and may be the final chapter in reducing NOx emissions. SCR is an exhaust after treatment that manages NOx emissions downstream of the diesel particulate filter and uses DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) to neutralize toxic NOx gasses. DEF is injected into the emissions to create a reaction between the NOx and the catalyst to create harmless nitrogen gas and water vapor. SCR allows the engine to function at higher combustion temperatures, providing increased fuel efficiency and power. It has been reported that fuel consumption can be improved as much as 6.5 percent with trucks using SCR as their chosen method for NOx reduction.
The application of DEF in the engine will be simple. Each truck is outfitted with an outboard storage tank between three and 24 gallons depending on class of vehicle. The level of NOx in the emissions system will transmit a need for DEF to be injected into the system as a fine mist. This DEF mist will hydrolyze into ammonia gas (NH3) and react with the NOx in the SCR catalyst to form nitrogen and water.
DEF is a high purity mixture of 32.5 percent urea and deionized water meeting the stringent ISO 22241-1 quality standards. The amount of DEF required will vary by engine manufacturer, horsepower and load. However, on average, one can expect to use 3-5 percent of DEF in relation to the fuel consumed. The average truck going 100,000 miles per year at six-miles-per-gallon will consume between 500 and 850 gallons of DEF. Although the 2010 engines are more costly to purchase than later model engines, this cost, as well as the cost to purchase DEF, will be offset by significant improvements in fuel consumption and by a much cleaner and safer environment for generations to come.
The critical issues surrounding DEF will be handling and storage, as any contamination to the fluid will result in significant threats to the catalysts and engine performance. It will be very important to use only a certified DEF, as both the urea and the water used to blend DEF are required to meet very close tolerances. It also will be advisable to top off DEF tanks during routine maintenance and inspections and to carry a 2.5-gallon bottle on board the truck as an emergency dose. The average truck will go 400 miles on 2.5 gallons of DEF.
Of potential concern to DEF users in Maine as well as other cold weather states, DEF will freeze when the temperature drops below 11° F. Fortunately, the SCR systems are designed for this and will not crack the DEF dispensing equipment. They quickly thaw as hot engine coolant circulates through heating coils in the system. Additionally, during typical engine start up, the need for DEF is limited, as the equipment has very low NOx emissions. The recommendation is to follow the OEM instructions for cold-weather operation, Ultimately, that means increased idling to ensure the DEF is thawed.
Fortunately the European Union has been using SCR for more than 10 years in many of the world’s coldest environments with excellent results.
Each SCR truck will be equipped with onboard hardware to detect levels of DEF in the storage tank. If the truck runs out of DEF – or if the wrong or contaminated fluid is used – the engine will derate (run at a reduced level). It is possible for the engine to derate to a maximum speed of five miles per hour due to these conditions. Again, it cannot be emphasized enough to keep appropriate levels and quality of DEF in your truck’s reservoir to avoid these costly conditions.
David W.H. Fenderson STLE, CLS, is senior vice president of marketing for Windward Petroleum. For more information, email@example.com
Investing in infrastructure, investing in Maine workers
By David Cole, Commissioner, MaineDOT
The gavel has come down on the 124th session of the Maine Legislature, and overall, Maine’s transportation sector did not fare too poorly. Governor Baldacci and the Maine Legislature stepped up, recognizing that investing in our infrastructure translates directly into investing in the Maine worker.
Our transportation system has daunting needs – a $3 billion investment over the next 10 years is necessary to meet our projected transportation needs. Considering our current economic situation, over the last six months, Maine’s transportation system has received quite a boost. We started out in January with no funds allocated for maintenance surface treatment (MST), and we ended with funding for over 600 miles. We started the session with no bonds on the horizon – no additional money for highway projects, and we finished with a bond package of which 82 percent is allocated for transportation projects, $24.8 million for highways alone. We were also faced with the knowledge that the Maine, Montreal & Atlantic Railway was filing to abandon roughly 240 miles of track in Aroostook County. We ended with a conceptual framework for continued operation in place, funding sources identified, and the commitment to ensure that freight rail service to The County remain intact.
These investments will directly affect roughly 1,500 workers in Maine, whether it’s through helping to preserve businesses along the Aroostook rail corridor, or the direct and indirect jobs created through the increase in highway construction. On the federal level, we received $14 million through Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants to support Maine’s “Three-Port Strategy,” that includes the Port of Portland, Port of Searsport and Port of Eastport. Maine, through the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, was awarded $35 million to extend the Amtrak Downeaster passenger train from Portland to Brunswick.
Our successes can be directly attributed to the teamwork that exists between the executive branch, the legislative branch, our federal delegation, community leaders and stakeholders such as the Maine Better Transportation Association, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, LEAD, AGC and many others. We are a team. From legislators who tirelessly advocate on the floor, and often times within their own caucus, for increased funding for our transportation infrastructure, sticking their neck out time and time again – to members of the transportation industry who have worked in the field for decades and are there day after day making sure that their voices, the stories of the people with boots on the ground, are heard. It is through the collaboration of this team that we are able to advance the cause and not only increase funding in these difficult times, but also explore innovative and creative means of doing business.
Although much work remains to be done, this collaboration has laid the groundwork towards preserving the Aroostook Rail Line. Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway announced their intent to abandon the 233 miles of track through Aroostook County late last summer. From early on, it became very clear that cutting off the County from rail services would be catastrophic – failure was not an option. It also became rather clear that the only viable option was for the state to purchase the line. From early bond discussions, it was evident that the funding for the purchase of the rail line was the lynchpin of the package.
Twenty-two businesses, with an estimated 750 to 1,000 jobs, are active rail shippers, dependent on this line. These companies, already experiencing serious economic challenges, would endure increased operating costs for the delivery of materials used in production, in turn making them less competitive in regional and national markets. Without continued rail service these firms may be forced to cut production levels, potentially resulting in layoffs. As the situation began to unfold at the legislative level, a strong, single message began to emerge from the team, and we all spoke with one united voice.
The rallying cry echoed throughout the halls of the State House during the final weeks of the session. Strategy sessions were held. Through our teamwork, the story was told of the devastating effects the loss of this line would have not only on the County, but also the entire state. We worked together and the result is an identified funding source and a task force charged with protecting the interest of the Maine taxpayers and ensuring transparency.
As I have said in the past, our current economy requires all of us that work in the business of transportation to lock arms, put our heads together, and move forward. Clearly, we did just that.