What’s important. In tough times and in good, it’s about what we accomplish.
By Thomas A. Martin, Jr.
A fruitful life. MBTA says goodbye to Maine icon Ival R. “Bud” Cianchette.
By Maria Fuentes
Transportation’s top 10. Ten stories that shaped Maine transportation in 2009.
By Kathryn Buxton
A big footprint. In four decades, John Dority left his mark on Maine.
By Douglas Rooks
Questions of transportation. Maria Fuentes talks with Transportation Committee members Rep. Richard Cebra (R-Naples) and Rep. George Hogan (D-Old Orchard).
Highway Fund still lacking. Despite budget cuts and efficiencies, paving and reconstruction backlogs will grow.
A good crop. MBTA and Maine Section ASCE award $15,000 in scholarships.
What’s the worst road in Maine? MBTA launches campaign to raise awareness of poor roads and their impacts.
The Marriner way. Sixty-plus years and four generations at the Rockport paving firm. By Kathryn Buxton
When we talk about leaders – those who have been and those yet to be – what’s important is whether our achievements make a difference for our families, our communities and our world
By Thomas A. Martin, Jr.
This is the time of the year that we look ahead and make resolutions. We also do a lot of crystal ball gazing. Will this be the year we begin to tackle that backlog of paving and highway and bridge reconstruction projects that has plagued Maine for decades? Will we begin to better realize the potential for world trade that our three deepwater ports hold? Will we finally say that it is time to really invest in better roads, highways, bridges, airports and rail - because they make life better for our communities and our families?
In this issue of Maine Trails, looking for answers about what the future holds really begins by looking at the extraordinary individuals profiled on these pages. From Bud Cianchette and John Dority to the 16 scholarship recipients recognized by the MBTA and Maine Section, ASCE – I am reminded of just how much difference one person can make.
Bud Cianchette not only helped build a lot of bridges, he touched a lot of lives across the nation, in Maine and within our organization. MBTA Executive Director Maria Fuentes looks at Bud’s enormous legacy in our cover story (“A fruitful life,” page 14). We all remember Bud as a natural leader, someone who didn’t mince words when he felt something needed to be done. She writes about how Bud and his brothers built a company from the ground up – Cianbro Corp. – never forgetting the values they learned from their parents.
Writer Douglas Rooks profiles John Dority (“A big footprint,” page 22), the recently retired MaineDOT chief engineer who over more than four decades helped build many of Maine’s great highways and bridges. Friends and co-workers know him as a problem-solver who could always find opportunity, even in a crisis. John has influenced generations of engineers and planners at MaineDOT, teaching by example – and he managed to have lots of fun along the way.
We also have the chance to read about some very inspiring young people in this issue – 16 scholarship winners who by all accounts are well on their way to making their mark on the world ( “A good crop,” page 32). Two of the scholarship winners are particularly noteworthy. Bo Li, a junior enrolled in the engineering program at UMaine, is the MBTA’s first ever Transportation Trailblazer Scholarship recipient. He is a student who has a deep commitment to serving the community through engineering and education. Amie Chiasson, another third-year UMaine engineering major, is the first recipient of the Kenneth W. Burrill Scholarship. Like Ken, a former MBTA president and Maine Transportation Achievement Award winner, she is someone who “thinks outside of the box” and is interested in using her talents and interest in land use planning and highway safety to make the world a better place.
Make no mistake about it: this is a very good time to be thinking about making a difference. In transportation, we need big thinkers like Bud, John, Ken, Bo and Amie to shake things up. We need leaders – whether they are entrepreneurs, engineers or politicians – who are willing to roll up their sleeves and find solutions to our biggest problems.
In transportation, one of our biggest challenges will be finding a way to make our highways and bridges safer, how to conserve energy and how to modernize our aging transportation network so that it can help our communities grow.
That won’t be easy. Maine Highway Fund revenues are continuing to decrease (see article on page 30), and there is a reluctance to address the really difficult issues of funding on either the local or national level. Nevertheless, it is a critical task, and one that we need everyone in the MBTA working on.
We won’t be working alone. I feel lucky to serve as president of an organization of more than 600 community and business leaders, each one with the talent and potential to make a difference.
I look forward to working with you in the coming months as we urge our fellow Mainers to invest in safer, more efficient highways, bridges, ports, rail and airports – because that is how we will make our economy stronger, attract new businesses and make this state a better place to do business and to raise a family.
A fruitful life
Saying goodbye to Bud Cianchette
By Maria Fuentes
When Bud Cianchette died on November 5, the transportation/construction community across the country mourned a man who, with his brothers, grew their small company into one of the largest and most respected general contracting firms on the east coast. They also mourned a man who dedicated himself to the betterment of the construction industry he loved, and who spent a lifetime sharing his talents and resources with others, determined to make his community and state a better place to live.
A patriot who served in World War II, Bud’s funeral took place fittingly on Veterans’ Day. Bud’s oldest son, Tom, provided the eulogy, noting: “When the time came, and he had done all he could do, and given all he could give, he told my mother simply he wanted to go home – home to Pittsfield, to this little town in Maine, to this little church, where his life started, a fruitful life, so long ago.”
Ival R. “Bud” Cianchette did accomplish a remarkable amount in his lifetime. He was born on July 19, 1926, to Ralph and Edna Cianchette, the fifth of seven children.
His father Ralph had emigrated from Italy at the age of 11 to join his father working on the railroad in Maine. Later as his family grew, he worked other jobs, eventually becoming a bridge builder.
In 1962, Edna was named Maine’s Mother of the Year. Answering a reporter’s question at the time, she said her greatest thrill as a mother was the day her last boy – five sons eventually served - came home from World War II, as she then knew that all her sons were safe.
Bud’s parents instilled in their children the importance of family and hard work. As the brothers began returning from the war, three of them pooled their money and together eventually built a company. (Younger brother Chuck joined them after the Korean War.) Cianchette Brothers was the forerunner to Cianbro Corporation, and they started with a six-inch pump, a two-inch pump, a few wheelbarrows and hand shovels.
The company grew, and their reputation grew along with it as one that attracted the best people, and always gave back to the community. All of the brothers were very active in their communities, in trade associations, and their company prospered.
In the early years, Bud established himself as a natural businessman, and Cianchette Brothers enjoyed substantial growth in the 1960s. Bud was president of the company from 1962 to 1979. Brother Ken was the planner and technical innovator, and Chuck became the trouble-shooter and “people person.” Together, the brothers built many projects in the 1960s, ranging from the Telstar satellite antenna facility in western Maine, to the construction of the Kenduskeag Stream canal in downtown Bangor, to major bridge projects on I-95.
Later, the brothers completed the Piscataqua River Bridge in Kittery and Portsmouth, and expanded the company into the mid-Atlantic region. The company took the name “Cianbro” in 1970. In 1979, Bud became Cianbro’s chairman. That gave him more time to pursue his passions – including horses and racing – and support causes and organizations important to him.
One of the leadership qualities that came naturally to Bud was bringing people together to discuss issues of common interest. He knew how to build a team, and he knew the value of sharing information with others in the same industry.
Tom said in his eulogy: “He understood that no one person can accomplish as much as a group of like-minded individuals. He involved himself with groups that enabled people and organizations to flourish – each person giving back to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. . . He insisted that a plaque be displayed in his offices proclaiming ‘No one in this room is smarter than all of us,’ for that was one of his core beliefs.”
Ralph Leonard was vice president of H.E. Sargent, Inc., when a group of leading road builders agreed that Maine needed an association that dealt with the challenges of highway contractors.
“We felt it was time for AGC (Associated General Contractors) – which previously had been comprised of building contractors – to have a highway division. We had a meeting in 1964 at the Samoset, and Phil Corey made the motion to elect Bud as chairman of that division. We, of course, unanimously agreed.”
“Bud was articulate, forceful, extremely knowledgeable in construction, and he knew how to bring people together,” said Ralph, a past MBTA president and Maine Transportation Achievement Award winner. “We knew he was the right person to chair this group.”
The founders of this highway division were all very active in Maine Good Roads Association (MGRA), the forerunner to MBTA. Ralph remembers that when those contractors were representing MGRA, “We had our broad hat on, and we were advocating for the good of the state. We could show a little more self-interest when we were advocating for AGC.”
The AGC of Maine’s Highway Division grew, and with it Bud’s status as a leader in the construction industry. In 1967, he was named president of AGC. After becoming prominent in federal construction issues, Bud was elected president of the AGC of America in 1980, the first Maine contractor to fill the national post. During his year as president, he led a business delegation to China and introduced President Ronald Reagan at the group’s annual convention. Long-time executive vice president Bert Beatty later said that Bud was the “best president AGC of America ever had, or ever will have.”
‘Classic love affair’
In Cianbro, the Constructors: The first 50 years, author Ann McGowan tells of how highly the Cianchette brothers valued family. Whenever anyone asked the brothers the secret to their success, they said, “Two things: having the right parents and having the right wives.”
Bud married Priscilla Winslow in 1952, and they raised one daughter, Susan, and four sons: Thomas, Earle, Mark and Peter. Son Peter, a vice president of business development at Cianbro and former U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, commented to the Portland Press Herald that his parents had a “classic love affair.”
“They met in a doctor’s office where Bud had an appointment, and she was a 19-year old medical secretary,” recalled Peter, a past MBTA president. “I believe it was love at first sight. They had a wonderful relationship and complemented each other so nicely. They had such respect for each other and worked so nicely as a team. He absolutely adored my mother.”
In his eulogy, Tom said: “Across the years he and my mother, Priscilla, traveled the world together. She was his very best friend. Their love for each other had few equals and held no bounds. They had amazing adventures with each other and the many good friends they met. Dad knew and respected people of all walks of life – and he infected them with his commitment, his can-do attitude, good sense, and humor.”
Honesty, effort and a thing for numbers
MBTA past president Bob Desjardins recalled that he first met Bud in 1967 when Cianchette Brothers bought the assets of Ellis Snodgrass, Bob’s former employer. The first thing that impressed him about Bud was his honesty.
“He made it clear from day one that you don’t shop bids – you go with the best price you got going in and you stick with it. If somebody comes in afterwards with a better price, that defeats the purpose.” When asked the key to Bud’s success, Bob attributes it to his honesty, his work ethic, and the fact that all three brothers got along so well.
“It was incredible – they never argued, there was never any in fighting.”
The values Ralph and Edna had instilled in Bud and his siblings were passed on by Bud and Priscilla to their own children. Son Earle, vice president of operations at Cianbro and a past MBTA president, recalled how his father had his children work at the stables or help with the gardens. Bud also told them they always had to try their best.
“When we got our report cards at school, we got two grades for each subject - the letter grade, and then a grade for effort. If we got an A, but only a 3 for effort, that was an ‘ok’ report card. But if we got a B or a C, and a 1 for effort, he was ecstatic, because we tried our best. That was much more valuable to him, and he said if we tried our hardest, then the grades would come.”
Bud also was a pragmatist, and had a great respect for numbers. “Whether we were talking about profitability or safety – it didn’t matter what – we just needed to be sure we had good numbers to back them up,” said Earle. “Bud would say that numbers were irrefutable – you might go to a meeting where people would go on about how well something was going, but Bud knew that the numbers tell the real story.”
‘Luckiest man in the world’
Earle also recalled that he wanted people to be decisive. “He used to say: evaluate the issue, make a decision and then move on.” Making no decision was worse than making the wrong decision. “He felt that once you get used to making decisions, you will learn to make good ones.”
Although Bud won many dozens of awards and accolades throughout his career, in the end he made clear his greatest accomplishment was his family. When the company celebrated its 60th anniversary in Pittsfield last September, Bud was battling the liver cancer that eventually took his life. He told the 400 in attendance that he wanted nobody to feel sorry for him. “I’m 83 years old, have five great kids and 10 grandchildren. You can’t feel sorry for me. I am the luckiest man in the world.”
MBTA members and friends who knew and loved Bud for so many years know that we were the lucky ones.
Transportation’s Top 10
From the stimulus to elections to paving challenges, a look back at the biggest transportation stories of 2009
By Kathryn Buxton
1. Did someone say ‘stimulus?’
At times, it seemed as if the stimulus was all anyone talked about. In February, when President Barack Obama signed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA), the stimulus was certainly the brightest spot on the country’s economic horizon.
The final legislation included nearly $787 billion in payments for everything from unemployment benefits to tax breaks. Only 6 percent was allocated for transportation – approximately $48 billion – and of that Maine received $130.7 million for highways and bridges and another $13.3 million for transit.
The highway and bridge funding came with strings attached. Half of it was to be obligated by summer’s end. That was a requirement many cash-starved state transportation departments gladly fulfilled. For its part, Maine was able to commit 100 percent of its ARRA transportation funding within 120 days. It went to more than 70 highway and bridge projects, including the $35 million reconstruction of a section of northbound I-295 from Brunswick to Topsham.
2. We have to wait, but for how long?
The six-year federal surface transportation funding authorization, known as SAFETEA-LU, expired on September 30, 2009, and Congress has yet to begin the nail-scraping negotiations that will lead to a final bill. In September, the House of Representatives approved a three-month extension that expired at year’s end. Another extension – this time through September 2010 – was passed in December just as the first extension was about to expire.
Delay causes long-term headaches for states, including Maine. Without a guarantee of funding, MaineDOT and other state DOTs are finding it difficult to plan long-term capital investments.
“When we get funding in spurts and stops, it is impossible to adhere to a long-term, well-managed transportation policy,” said Pete Rahn, MoDOT director and former president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Nothing is reliable about federal transportation funding right now, and that’s going to keep progress on hold.”
3. What does MST stand for?
Maine’s budget situation continued to worsen in 2009, prompting MaineDOT to cancel 75 percent of its scheduled 2010-2011 maintenance surface treatment (MST) paving program.
MST is what helps keep Maine’s network of roads in good working condition between major reconstructions. It keeps the water out and helps prevent potholes. During a typical biennium, MaineDOT should complete maintenance paving on 1,200-1,400 miles of state-funded roads. MaineDOT announced it is only able to to fund up to 300 more miles of MST paving in 2010.
Mainers will pay dearly for that, according to MBTA President Tom Martin. “That means hundreds of miles of state roads will become increasingly vulnerable to cracking and potholes,” wrote Martin in the June-July Maine Trails. “It means Mainers will pay hundreds of dollars more in maintenance costs to replace tires and align their vehicles. And as a society, it will cost us millions of dollars more in deferred maintenance – because every year we fail to perform routine maintenance, the more expensive the maintenance becomes.”
There was a ray of hope in December 2009: MaineDOT announced that budget trimming and efficiencies may yield some additional funding for MST paving.
4. Rail, high speed and otherwise
With the Obama administration’s call for federal investment in a high speed rail system for the country, rail has been a major topic of conversation in transportation circles throughout the country. In the fall of 2009, Maine submitted three passenger proposals for federal high speed rail grants for the Downeaster line (the grants will be announced this winter).
Freight rail was also in the spotlight. In August, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic announced plans to abandon 241 miles of track from Millinocket to Madawaska, including several branch lines, because revenues have not been strong enough to support the line’s operation. The area’s forest products industry has been especially hard hit during the economic downturn.
Rail advocates and several businesses that rely on rail service are anxious to keep the line in service. MaineDOT this fall applied for a $23 million discretionary TIGER (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery) grant – part of the federal stimulus package – to purchase and repair the line. Announcement of the TIGER grants will come later this winter, as well.
Meanwhile, MaineDOT began work on a state rail plan to provide a comprehensive evaluation of Maine’s freight and passenger rail transportation system; its ownership, use, infrastructure, operations and maintenance; and its existing and potential effect on economic development. The draft plan was completed in late 2009, and is currently in the public review phase. A completed plan will be a prerequisite for future federal rail funding.
The Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) released its first Report Card for Maine’s Infrastructure, and the exhaustive review ranked the state’s system of roads and bridges with D and a D+ respectively.
“Maine spends one-fifth of the New England average on a per-mile basis on capital improvements and one-third of the regional average on maintenance,” Maine Section ASCE President Erik J. Wiberg, P.E., told Maine Trails.
The report came out at year end 2008 and continued to make news well into 2009. It found that MaineDOT’s pavement preservation program typically receives only about half the funding needed (even less during the current biennium) – and predicted that if more funding was not secured, another 2,100 miles of state-maintained roads could fall into poor condition, adding to the 26 percent which already are rated “poor.”
The study also pointed to a more than $440 million funding gap for state bridges over the next 10 years, despite a recent measure passed by the Maine Legislature creating $160 million in new bridge funding. Currently 34 percent of Maine’s bridges are listed as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The national average is 25 percent.
The MBTA celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2009, and Maine Trails took a look back and quickly determined the more things change, the more they stay the same.
In 1939, when the Maine Good Roads Association was founded, the organization’s argument for public investment in state roads and bridges was similar to that used by transportation industry advocates today: modernizing Maine’s transportation system could help restore economic viability to the state.
Maine Good Road’s first battle was to secure funding for the Maine State Highway Commission, a woefully small and underfinanced arm of state government. Maine Good Roads lobbied the legislature for an amendment dedicating Highway Fund revenue solely for highway purposes. That amendment passed in 1944.
Another early fight: the push for construction of a modern highway that would connect Maine with New Hampshire, Boston and eventually the Maritimes. There was no public source of funding for this new highway, so Maine Good Roads backed the formation of the Maine Turnpike Authority that could pay for the construction from future toll revenues. The first stretch of that grand and ambitious project, the section from Kittery to Portland was completed in 1947.
Maine Good Roads became the Maine Better Transportation Association in 1983, but even with its expanded advocacy efforts on behalf of marine, rail, air and highway transportation, it remains dedicated to improving the safety and efficiency of transportation throughout Maine.
Advocates for the North-South Highway scored a victory with Governor John Baldacci’s March endorsement of a plan that allows the Caribou Connector and the Presque Isle bypass projects – originally linked as a single project – to proceed separately.
The Caribou bypass will be the first to begin construction in 2010. Work to select a route for the Presque Isle bypass continues. Both bypasses will remove heavy truck traffic from downtown areas and are part of a much larger vision long advocated by the MBTA and central to a proposed 110-mile extension of the interstate.
The cost for completion of the Caribou segment is estimated at $20 million. It will be funded from a federal pot of $40 million secured by Senator Susan Collins, with support from Maine’s congressional delegation, for the North-South Highway project in the 1998 and 2005 federal transportation authorizations.
That means jobs throughout the state, at a time when Maine really needs the jobs, according to Maria Fuentes, executive director for the MBTA. Making traffic and freight movement through the region more efficient will create “benefits from this project for years to come,” she added.
8. ‘Bridge in a backpack’
“When you do something that’s never been done before, to be able to make a bridge essentially from a backpack, it changes the way we build bridges,” said Dr. Habib Dagher, director of the University of Maine’s AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center in Orono, announcing the center’s revolutionary new composite bridge design.
The university collaborated with the Maine Department of Transportation to build the first “bridge in a backpack” in Pittsfield in early 2009. The new 45-foot span was designed without the typical steel or concrete supports. Instead, it has composite arches that were developed in AEWC’s laboratory/manufacturing facility and inflated on the site.
MaineDOT is betting on the new technology. The department worked with AWEC to construct the Neal Bridge as a demonstration project and has tentatively set aside $6 million for six additional composite span bridges in its 2010-2011 budget. Dagher hopes the cost of composite bridges eventually will be 20 percent less than a standard bridge.
The groundbreaking work has attracted new investments to Maine, as well. Advanced Infrastructure Technologies, a newly formed investment group, has committed $20 million to fund a production and testing facility to produce many more.
9. Why doing what’s right pays
The Maine Development Foundation and the Maine Better Transportation Association released a report in July 2009 that determined a well maintained and efficient transportation system would bring new business to Maine, make existing businesses more competitive and significantly increase safety and the quality of life for Maine citizens.
The Difference is Night and Day: Why investing in highways and bridges is an investment in prosperity provided a behind-the-scenes look at the data that the economic research organization compiled when it included a transportation indicator in its annual Measures of Growth analysis. The new report included 18 facts about transportation investment. Nine show the dangers of underinvestment and neglect; nine demonstrate the benefits of adequate, strategic investments.
“Maine’s transportation infrastructure has fallen into disrepair, and with every failing bridge and posted state highway, the state’s economy and quality of life are at risk,” said Laurie Lachance, Maine Development Foundation president and CEO. “If Maine’s economy is going to thrive in the coming century, we must recognize the benefits of a safe and efficient transportation infrastructure and invest to protect those benefits.”
10. Don’t mess with my transportation funding!
MBTA and its members watched closely as Mainers went to the polls in November. How Maine voted on three ballot questions stood to significantly impact transportation funding on local and state levels.
In the end, the election turned out well for transportation advocates. Question 6, the $71.25 million transportation bond referendum, passed handily – by a 2-to-1 margin – and that assured funding during the current biennium for highways, bridges, ports and ferries, rail and aviation.
Questions 2 and 4, also on the ballot, were both defeated. Question 2 – the excise tax referendum that sought to reduce the tax paid on newer vehicles – was defeated by an almost 3-to-1 margin. Question 4, known as TABOR 2, was defeated with just over 60 percent of the vote. Question 4 was a redrafted version of a referendum the voters rejected in 2006.
MBTA members had worked hard to get the word out on all three issues, and to reinforce with voters the vital importance of investing in transportation infrastructure. Being made aware that transportation funding was at stake made a difference, according to MBTA Executive Director Maria Fuentes. “Mainers have a lot of trust that spending money on transportation infrastructure is money well spent. They know that what money we do spend creates a lot of family wage jobs,” said Fuentes.
A big footprint
MaineDOT’s Chief Engineer John Dority looks back at 4+ decades in Maine transportation
By Douglas Rooks
Unlike many kids, John Dority knew what he wanted to do early in life. When he was seven, he was asked about his future, and said, “I want to be the chief state transportation engineer.” Half a century later, he achieved his goal through, as he put it, “perseverance and a lot of luck.”
Dority recently was among a number of long-time state employees accepting retirement incentives. At age 72, he said goodbye to the department where he’d worked for more than four decades. Many of those who have known and worked with him took the occasion to look back at his career and the giant footprint he has left on Maine’s network of highways and bridges.
His departure did not surprise those close to him. He had continued to work while his wife, with whom he raised three children, endured a long illness, and passed away two years ago. Afterward, he began thinking about retirement. He reflected on that decision during an interview in the quiet Augusta home where he’s lived since 1984, when he returned to the capital after 10 years running MaineDOT’s maintenance division in Presque Isle.
“I have lots of outdoor toys,” he said, gesturing to a fleet of recreational vehicles in the side yard. “It’s good to have the time.”
Dority’s decision about his future career was not all that surprising, either. His father was employed in the state highway maintenance division, and Dority, like many of his colleagues, got his start as a laborer. Counting summers before college, he had 53 years of service with the state.
After attending high school and earning his engineering degree at the University of Maine, he joined the Air National Guard and served one year active duty and five years in the Guard at Dow Air Force Base in Bangor.
Even in his early years, it was clear that John Dority was not an entirely typical engineer. Said Warren Foster, former head of project development for MaineDOT, “He has a real passion for engineering, but he’s also known for his problem-solving ability.”
Alden Small, a former MaineDOT deputy and acting commissioner, concurs. “John really enjoys a crisis, and if there wasn’t one, he’d create it,” he said, adding, “and that wasn’t a bad thing.” It was Small, a former MBTA board member and Maine Transportation Achievement Award winner, who brought Dority back to Augusta to assume his former role of maintenance chief when he moved to the commissioner’s office.
“He’s always been capable of making quick decisions, issue by issue. He really knew how to move things along,” Small said.
Foster first worked with Dority in the Division of Project Development, and said, “He was a mentor of mine, and many others. His dedication to DOT and his people was unquestioned.”
Dority describes himself as an “extroverted engineer,” when asked about how he approached his job. “Our profession has a lot of people who want to get every little thing right, who want to hold on to things until the very last minute,” he said.
Dority’s approach, perhaps encouraged by his years in the maintenance division, was to keep things moving. “You can solve problems on the fly, out in the field,” he said. “If you wait until everything’s perfect, you’ve waited too long.”
While building roads and bridges is the bread and butter of any DOT highway engineer, Dority’s choice of his favorite projects seems a little unusual.
One favorite was the I-95 rest area in Kittery, that welcomes many of the millions of visitors to Maine each year. There were many site constraints, and Dority ended up with a layout where traffic circulates around the central buildings. “That way, if you miss a parking space you want, you can come around again.” It’s a characteristically pragmatic design, finding an advantage in an apparent disadvantage of tight parameters.
He followed the recent reconstruction of I-295 from Topsham to Gardiner with great interest, because the original stretch of interstate was one of his big design projects and one of the few interstate sections in New England with a concrete surface.
During his long career at MaineDOT, Dority worked on projects literally from Kittery to Fort Kent. Asked if the 1960s and 70s, when the state was completing the interstate highway system and erecting several notable bridges, was a heroic age for highway builders, he demurs, but notes that changing standards and rules have made things quite different today.
The construction of I-295 through Portland, that involved filling wetlands and demolishing numerous apartment buildings, would probably not be possible today, he said. Environmental standards, and sensitivity to displacing homes or businesses make new transportation routes more difficult to site. Even smaller projects like the Newcastle-Damariscotta bypass for Route 1 would not have been built so close to existing infrastructure, he said. “We went through shell heaps that would now require historic preservation studies, not to mention the wetlands,” he said.
Not all the changes have made things tougher for highway planners and building. Dority was always a stickler for safety, which he considers possibly the best reason to consider new or improved routing.
His favorite section of Maine’s interstate is the same Topsham-to-Gardiner stretch that was built with a concrete surface. It was one of the last major interstate sections completed, and by that time the federal government was supporting, and then requiring, enhanced safety features, including separately routed north and south roadways independently designed, breakaway signposts, protected abutments, and improved guardrails. A crash involving Gov. John Baldacci early in his term did less damage because of the slope gradient employed during construction, he noted.
“Safety is really a major part of what we’re supposed to be doing for the public,” he said.
Dority is also a strong supporter of non-engineered safety initiatives, and he singles out former state Senator Christine Savage’s many years of work, ultimately successful, to require seat belt use for all drivers and passengers.
“There are 15 to 20 travelers on Maine’s highways that will not be killed in crashes because of her efforts,” Dority said. When the final bill was enacted, Dority circulated a letter thanking the senator, and got every engineer at MaineDOT to sign it.
Money, and the lack of it, has been a major transportation issue for years, and it’s not just the current shortfall in fuel taxes that’s driving the issue, Dority said. “We’ve known for a long time this day was coming.”
While all states are struggling with transportation funding, Maine’s particular problem stems in large part from the number of bridges built in the 1920 and ’30s, and which now need replacing. “That was when we were building the system, when we created the statewide network,” he said.
Most bridges have a 60- to 70-year lifespan, so the bills for replacements are now falling due. While MaineDOT has been trying to extend the useful life of bridges through strategic repairs and renovations, sometimes that isn’t enough.
“Back when these bridges were built, a 10-ton truck was a heavy load, and most freight moved by rail,” Dority said. “Now, trucks deliver everything and 100,000-pound loads are legal. We have a lot of bridges that weren’t built to stand that kind of stress.”
With characteristic initiative, Dority advocated for a greatly enhanced bridge inspection program. “What you’re worried about most is the prospect of catastrophic failure,” such as the collapse of an interstate highway bridge over the Mianus River in Connecticut in the 1980s, and the more recent collapse of the I-35W span in downtown Minneapolis.
But it turns out that engineers aren’t automatically qualified to be bridge inspectors, he said. “We built the bridges, but we’re not allowed to inspect them without taking a specific federal course.” So, starting with himself, state engineers went back to school, and MaineDOT now has a large team of certified bridge inspectors who travel the state regularly.
While the need to rapidly replace the old Waldo-Hancock bridge carrying Route 1 over the Penobscot River roused considerable concern in the Maine Legislature, Dority considers it one of the success stories for increased vigilance about bridge conditions. “You never want to get to the point where you have to close a major bridge for safety reasons. You want to know what you have to do, and when.”
The Penobscot Narrows project, as the new bridge came to be known, was among Dority’s last hurrahs as chief engineer.
Alden Small had by that time retired, but said he regularly heard about Dority’s skill in drafting change orders and problem-solving on almost a daily basis, as Maine’s two largest bridge building companies, Reed & Reed and Cianbro, worked together for the first time.
“That was one of his finest hours,” Small said. “He was really in his element.”
Dority plays down his role in that project: “I was proud to have a small part in the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, but only a small part.” He notes that the legislature has since increased bridge replacement funding through the TransCap program – a funding vehicle initiated by the MBTA – but says “There is not enough to do the job and still fund the other necessary services provided by state government.” Tolls, one of the traditional means of paying for bridges, including intercity spans in Portland-South Portland and Bangor-Brewer, as well as Memorial Bridge in Augusta, have fallen out of favor both with drivers and political leaders. “The issue is going to be with us for a long time,” he said.
Financial pressures have required the state to be constantly looking for efficiencies –without compromising the quality of service.
A big change in the maintenance department, he said, has been the changeover from sand to salt as the major winter maintenance tool, including pre-storm applications of brine mixture to prevent icing.
Not only do the roads clear faster, but the amount of labor required, both for application and later cleanup, is considerably reduced. “We have smaller crews, but they’re even busier than before,” he said. “It’s something we had to do, but we’re getting more out of our winter maintenance dollars, too,” he said.
As he looks back at his career, Dority finds much to be satisfied about from the technical standpoint, but that is not the part of the job that he misses.
“It’s the people,” he said. “The employees you see every day, and the ones you’ve worked with for years.” He recalls his retirement party, which drew a large crowd of admirers. “That was really something,” he said. “I’ll always remember that.”
Since retirement, he’s been offered a number of consulting opportunities, but since they all required significant travel, he turned them down. He seems content with the idea that his working career may, in fact, be over.
It isn’t always like that for engineers. Warren Foster, for instance, retired from MaineDOT but then discovered it didn’t suit him, so he went back to work as executive director of the state Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers, that sets licensing standards and education requirements. It was a role that reunited him with Dority regularly, since the chief engineer is an ex-officio member. Dority was “a highly involved board member,” Foster recalls, for 13 years.
On his retirement, the board memorialized Dority’s service, recalling his MaineDOT positions as head of Interstate and Urban Arterial Design, Division 1 engineer for maintenance in Presque Isle, director of the Bureau of Maintenance and Operations, and deputy chief engineer, before his last posting as chief engineer.
Alden Small said that among Dority’s notable characteristics is that “He was always looking out for his people. He considered himself to be responsible for the success of their work, as well as his own.”
And despite his propensity to get projects off the drawing board more quickly than some of his peers, Small said, “John was always thoughtful in his approach. He didn’t cut corners. He did things the right way.”
Warren Foster thinks there may be one more job for Dority to accomplish: documenting what went on at MaineDOT during his tenure. “He has the most extraordinary power of recall. We might be talking about something that happened years ago that I could hardly remember, but John had it all at his fingertips. Someone should get him to write it down.”
Questions of transportation
MBTA’s Maria Fuentes talks with Representatives Richard Cebra and George Hogan about the federal stimulus, a possible federal jobs bill, paving cuts and Maine’s transportation challenges.
Do you think Maine saw real benefits from the federal stimulus package? Why?
Representative Cebra: No, temporary funding mechanisms are why we have the problems with our infrastructure in Maine. We need to find steady, long-term solutions to funding our infrastructure needs.
Representative Hogan: Obviously, yes there was a limited but favorable impact on Maine of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. I believe Maine received less than New Hampshire in terms of infrastructure, and it upset a lot of people that we didn’t get more. So I guess the answer is yes and no. It was a gift we are thankful for, but we should have had a higher amount based on the number of roads we have to take care of.
What about Maine’s transportation infrastructure has hurt the state’s economy? What has helped the economy?
Rep. Cebra: Being in a tourism based business people tell me all the time that Maine’s roads are in rough shape. We have several campgrounds in my district and Sebago State Park in Naples; RVers especially mention it – some won’t be back. So it affects campgrounds and all the tourism-based businesses the campers would go to.
Rep. Hogan: The fact that we are unable to afford a strong maintenance program has definitely hurt the state’s economy. We were only able to do 250 miles of maintenance surface treatment (MST), and that is irresponsible. That is a far cry from what we actually should be doing.
What is the most critical transportation need facing the state? What about facing the people in your district?
Rep. Cebra: Long-term steady dependable funding for our transportation infrastructure. All else rests on solving this problem. As far as my district, getting the Naples Causeway bridge project completed as soon as possible is the biggest concern in our area, and it affects the entire Route 302 corridor from Windham to Fryeburg. That’s why I have worked so hard on that project; it’s bigger than just Naples.
Rep. Hogan: It bears repeating – our inability to take care of maintenance is a huge problem. The stimulus money was deeply appreciated, but it is just a Band-Aid when you think about how much we really should be doing. Our needs are huge, and we have so little money to pay for it. In my district, our inability to get more of our projects into the annual two-year work plan is problematic. We usually don’t fare too well in that process; there just isn’t enough money to go around.
The CanAm Connections study discusses transportation infrastructure in the Northeast border corridor and its effects on economic development opportunities. What steps do you think Maine should take to remove the barriers to global trade opportunities?
Rep. Cebra: Two words: SEARS ISLAND. Let’s get a facility built on Sears Island as quickly as possible and stop any catering to the environmental extremists who may hold up the project any longer.
Rep. Hogan: What comes to mind initially is our ports. Searsport, Eastport and Portland are critical to global trade, and they deserve more of an emphasis. Shipping over the ocean is a big opportunity in years to come. We also need to develop a port on Sears Island. If there isn’t any interest in the RFPs for Sears Island, then we need to re-work it and find some interest. Rail also needs to have improvements.
Based on what happened during this past session, the MaineDOT can only fund 250 miles of maintenance surface treatment (MST), when it should be funding 1,200 to 1,400 miles. Your thoughts?
Rep. Cebra: We should change our priorities to fund MST first. Don’t leave it hoping that there will be a gas tax increase. Long-term solutions to our funding problems will also fix this. Raising the fuel taxes is a short-term solution. We need to find better, more dependable long-term funding solutions to better guarantee our revenue stream’s stability.
Rep. Hogan: I was obviously tremendously disappointed. This comes back to educating legislators on the necessity for maintenance – even in their own community! Some of these folks voted against projects that would have taken place in their districts. This is just maintenance. This isn’t tearing up roads and rebuilding roads. If we can’t even do maintenance, we are up for much bigger problems. Legislators should be very worried about what the consequences should be.
What was the most significant transportation success this past session? What was your biggest disappointment?
Rep. Cebra: I don’t feel there were any really notable successes in the last session. The Transportation Committee did not work as well as a unit as it did in the 123rd Legislature. We lost some real transportation champions between the 123rd and 124th: Representatives Dusty Fisher and Chairman Boyd Marley, as well as Senator Christine Savage. All of them had a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge that the committee has sorely missed.
Rep. Hogan: Success: There was no significant success this past session. Again, my biggest disappointment was that we voted for a budget that only had 250 miles of maintenance paving in it.
What are your hopes for the upcoming session?
Rep. Cebra: I have few hopes for this coming session. There will be a revenue shortfall, and my hope is that the committee can find a solution that does not have an effect on the work plan. I am also hoping that we can find some money to do more MST. I was disappointed at the bills that were let through for the second session and several that were not let through. Four “emergency” bridge or highway memorial naming bills got through for this session, but three bills that would have opened the discussion on funding were not let through the Legislative Council process because they were proposed by Republicans. Partisanship in transportation policy serves no one in Maine – except the politicians.
Rep. Hogan: We need to have more discussions centered around sustainable revenues. We do need to think outside of the box and get out of this mindset that the major source of revenue has to be the gas tax. There has to be something added to it that is better and more sustainable. People think the bonds we pass are a lot of money – and they are – but the fact remains that money is just a drop in the bucket in terms of our needs. In any casino or gambling issue, the transportation system should be part of that revenue line. We have increased fees and done peripheral stuff, but we need some real money.
Congress is talking about a jobs program, and the president suggested that he may consider $50 billion for infrastructure. Is this a way to avoid the tough decisions around reauthorizing the federal transportation program?
Rep. Cebra: Maine is already way too addicted to federal money. Hanging our hopes on some new one-time federal stimulus or euphemistically named “jobs” bill solves none of our real problems. It’s welfare for state government, and it’s another case of the administration avoiding another tough decision.
Rep. Hogan: I don’t know if it is a deliberate effort to do that, but if it is going to go the same route as the stimulus bill, where we got the short end of the stick, then yes. It is a tough question. We need to get something, but if it is going to delay further action [on reauthorization], I am not sure it is worth it.
What is the most common constituent complaint you hear about transportation?
Rep. Cebra: The biggest complaint is the mistaken notion that gas taxes go into the General Fund and are not used for our roads. This then prompts a five-minute discussion on my part setting the record straight.
Rep. Hogan: It is usually the roads. Once you explain to them what funds the roads, they better understand the problem. But it still comes back to them complaining about the roads.
Have your transportation habits / commuting habits changed in the last year?
Rep. Cebra: Yes, I bought a full-sized Dodge pickup to increase my carbon footprint.
Rep. Hogan: Yes, to a small degree. Deliberately, because of the price of gas, I am taking fewer trips, and I am traveling less.
What is the worst and best road you frequently travel on?
Rep. Cebra: The best road I travel on is the Maine Turnpike. It ought to be for the size of the Turnpike Authority budget. The worst is Route 114 in Sebago coming into Naples. It’s a dangerous piece of road that needs more than a skinny mix coating.
Rep. Hogan: The best road is the Maine Turnpike and, again, the worst road I travel on is part of the Maine Turnpike. I noticed it just the other day. There are some sections that are great, and others that need some work.
Maine Highway Fund
supplemental budget still lacking
Despite administrative cuts and efficiencies that helped MaineDOT rebound from a projected $14.3 million revenue shortfall, funding for maintenance program is still sorely lacking.
In december, the Maine Revenue Forecasting Committee announced Highway Fund revenues were expected to fall by $14.3 million (out of the previous total of $621 million budgeted for 2010-2011). The Highway Fund downgrade, the seventh during the past five years, would have been disastrous to the already bare-bones MaineDOT highway maintenance program.
Governor Baldacci unveiled his proposed supplemental Highway Fund budget on December 18, 2009, that showed $33.2 million in savings. With balance forward and other minor adjustments, the net result is $19.7 million in additional allocations in the proposed Highway Fund supplemental budget. This is at a time when the state General Fund is struggling with a $438 million shortfall (out of $5.8 billion General Fund expenditures budgeted for the biennium).
While a net $19.7 million gain for the biennial transportation budget is a positive sign in a difficult economy, it is not nearly enough to offset billions of dollars in underinvestment in the state’s highways and bridges, according to MBTA Executive Director Maria Fuentes.
“We’ve partially dodged a bullet, but we have a freight train of maintenance problems headed directly at us,” said Fuentes. She said over the next 10 years, Maine needs an additional $3 billion dollars to pay for projects that are not being funded. “That’s $3 billion in capital investments to key state highways, bridges and other transportation projects, and because we’re not investing now, repairing them later when they are in worse shape is going to be even more expensive.”
Shorting capital projects
Because of the savings, MaineDOT will be able to put another $18 million into its newly formed “light capital” program. That, said MaineDOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Van Note, will include funding for about 300 miles of maintenance surface treatment (MST) in fiscal year 2011, a program that had been severely trimmed back due to budget constraints. MST is the light treatment that helps make Maine’s worst roads passable.
It seals the highway surface and smoothes the surface on roads sometimes described as “basket cases.”
Van Note was quick to point out that while the additional MST miles are an improvement, “it’s still only half of what we should be doing.” The department estimates it should treat about 1,200 miles of state highways every two years. Even with the supplemental budget plan, MaineDOT will be treating only about 550 miles, or less than half what is needed.
“The truth is, that while it is good we don’t have to cut the Highway Fund budget, this is just a Band-Aid on a gushing wound,” said Fuentes. “It is good news that we are able to maintenance pave 300 miles, but we need to find enough to pave at least 600 more miles,” said Fuentes. She further stressed that there are other major gaps in the proposed supplemental budget.
“The highway reconstruction budget has been nearly bankrupt for years now. The current two-year capital plan aims to reconstruct only 46 miles of highway statewide, when we should be doing more than 250 miles. If we ignore the problem during this cycle, we will be in worse shape when Maine and the nation come out of the recession, and that would put us even further behind,” said Fuentes.
The Maine Legislature will be considering the Highway Fund supplemental budget next month. For developments and information, watch for MBTA E-Updates and visit www.mbtaonline.org.
A good crop
The MBTA Educational Foundation expands its annual awards with two scholarships that honor leadership potential.
The past 12 months have been a banner year for the MBTA Educational Foundation. The philanthropic arm of the Maine Better Transportation Association – along with Maine Transportation Conference sponsorship funds - awarded $15,000 in scholarships to 16 Maine students pursuing careers in transportation-related fields from diesel hydraulics to civil engineering. This year’s group of student honorees includes two first-time scholarship awards – the MBTA Transportation Trailblazer Scholarship and the Kenneth W. Burrill Scholarship.
“These two scholarships represent a new direction for the foundation,” said MBTA President Tom Martin. “We are looking for not only gifted students and future engineers, but also for the individuals who will lead our field in the decades to come.”
Bo Li, a third-year civil engineering student at UMaine is the MBTA’s first-ever Transportation Trailblazer Scholarship recipient. The award was established in 2009 and seeks to identify a student who has demonstrated a strong interest in the transportation industry and who shows promise as a future advocate for the transportation community in Maine.
“We were really impressed with Bo, and how he has used his first two years of college to become involved in the community,” said Educational Foundation Board Chair Randy Mace. The Transportation Trailblazer is a sustaining scholarship, meaning Bo will be able to receive it for up to four years, provided he continues to meet the criteria.
The MBTA awarded another first-time scholarship – the Kenneth W. Burrill Scholarship – to UMaine engineering student Amie Chiasson, a junior majoring in engineering with a minor in geology. The Kenneth W. Burrill Scholarship was established in 2009 in memory of Ken Burrill, a former MBTA president and Transportation Achievement Award recipient (1999). Ken had a long and distinguished career in transportation and construction, and the scholarship bearing his name is meant to go to an individual who shows strong creative and leadership skills.
“Ken was a true leader in our organization – and in Maine – and throughout his career he urged everyone around them to do their best no matter what challenge they faced,” said Mace. “We felt that Amie, like Ken, has a great deal of potential to make an impact in her chosen field.”
In addition, the foundation also awarded three scholarships named for Lucius Barrows who served as the Maine Department of Transportation’s chief engineer from 1928 to 1955 and two scholarships named for former Aroostook County legislator, businessman and MBTA board member Paris J. Snow. Three students received Millard W. Pray Scholarship, named for MBTA past president and Educational Foundation board member Millard Pray, and created by his former employer and business partner Eldon Morrison. The MBTA also collaborated with the Maine Section, American Society of Civil Engineers to fund six MBTA-ASCE Maine Transportation Conference Scholarships.
“We are very lucky this year to have had such a good crop of talented students applying for MBTA scholarships,” said Martin. “It bodes well for our field and for the future of transportation in Maine.”
Below are brief profiles of the 2009 MBTA Scholarship winners.
Kazia grew up much of her life in Skowhegan, and moved to Freeport for her last two years of high school at Pine Tree Academy. She is in her second year at Husson College where she is studying psychology and criminal justice.
As a recipient of a Millard W. Pray Scholarship, Kazia said her first year of study was challenging, but rewarding. She plans to continue to work hard to achieve her goal of becoming a criminal profiler. She wrote, “I aim to graduate from Husson with honors and with minimal debt. The Millard W. Pray Scholarship will help me achieve this goal.”
Amie Chiasson, from Turner, is the first MBTA recipient of the Kenneth W. Burrill Scholarship. She is a junior civil engineering major at UMaine with a 3.4 grade point average. Amie is studying transportation engineering and minoring in earth science with a primary focus on climate change and glaciers.
In the summer of 2008, Amie worked as an intern for Main-Land Development Consultants of Livermore Falls where she helped develop storm water plans for projects. She plans to go to graduate school at UMaine for environmental and water resources engineering. Eventually, she would like to work in the transportation field and focus on improving interstate safety. Amie was a student speaker at the 2009 Maine Transportation Conference, where she presented her research on the topic of composites used in guardrails.
Tyler Cousins grew up in Stonington and attended George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill. Until recently, he thought he was going to become a fisherman. Then last year, he enrolled at Northern Maine Community College where he is studying diesel hydraulics. He is a recipient of the Paris J. Snow Memorial Scholarship.
Tyler has worked as a lobsterman and at the family boat yard, founded more than 70 years ago by his great grandfather. He hopes the knowledge and skills he gains in the program will help him “expand the business so it is not just a service yard, but also a diesel hydraulic rebuild mechanic shop,” wrote Tyler. He is thankful to the MBTA for the scholarship support. He wrote, “Despite working full time, it has been a struggle to financially support myself this year and I thank the MBTA for their support.”
A second year civil engineering student at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, Amber Ferland is a graduate of Erskine Academy in South China, Maine.
Her studies at Norwich are currently focusing on structural engineering, and she has been active in the college chapters of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Society of Women Engineers. She wrote, “The transportation industry is constantly changing, and I want to be a part of that change.” Amber is a recipient of the Millard W. Pray Scholarship.
Charles Friedman is a recipient of a Lucius Barrows Scholarship. He grew up on Peaks Island, a small island near Portland. During the summer, he builds and repairs sailboat sails, coaches kite-boarding in North Carolina and works in home construction. In 2006, Charles began studying civil engineering at UMaine.
He was a founding member and co-president of the UMaine chapter of Engineers Without Borders.
Charles is working on a capstone project that addresses transportation problems on Main Street/ Route 2 in Orono. He is interested in transportation engineering because of the opportunity it gives people to change how they impact the environment. He would like to pursue a career in sustainable development and plans to study urban planning or architecture after graduating from UMaine.
MBTA-ASCE Transportation Conference Scholarship recipient Amy Getchell grew up in Suffern, New York, and graduated with honors from Suffern High School. This year, she is a senior in the civil engineering program, where she is the student outreach officer for the American Society of Civil Engineers -UMaine Chapter.
During the summer of 2008, she worked as a field technician for an environmental engineering consulting firm in northern New Jersey, and during the summer of 2009, she was an asset management technician with the Portland Water District where she assisted with field verification and GIS mapping. During the school year, Amy spends her free time tutoring mathematics, participating on the Concrete Canoe Team and playing tennis.
Christi Holmes, from Machias, is a senior civil engineering major with a 3.8 grade point average. Christi is a recipient of a Lucius Barrows Scholarship, and was a student speaker at the Maine Transportation Conference in 2008 where she presented her research on the effects of expanding Maine railroads.
Christi has been a member of numerous groups on campus. She is currently president of the Society of Women Engineers and was a founding member, secretary and treasurer of Engineers Without Borders at UMaine. She is also involved in the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Spanish Club and was the university’s homecoming queen last year. She has interned with the National Parks Service in Seattle and the U.S. Public Health Service and plans on taking a year off to travel before attending graduate school for civil engineering.
Cody Gerard Jean, a recipient of an MBTA-ASCE Maine Transportation Conference Scholarship, developed a passion for construction while working two years as a laborer for Sargent Corp. on the new border station at Jackman.
He wrote, “The new border crossing was a tremendous project comprising both unique building aspects with essential transportation needs.”
He is a graduate of Gardiner Area High School and is currently enrolled in the construction management program at UMaine. He has a 3.39 grade point average and is minoring in engineering leadership, surveying and entrepreneurialship. He is a member of both the student chapters of AGC and ABC (he is currently president of the ABC chapter). In his free time, he enjoys playing hockey and coaches both adult and youth clinics.
Bo Li, who has been awarded the MBTA’s first Transportation Trailblazer Scholarship, is a junior in the civil engineering program at UMaine. Even as a young boy, he dreamed of designing and building roads and bridges. Two-and-half years’ comprehensive study have only seen that interest grow, and he wrote, “I have enjoyed all the courses and the activities related to civil engineering.”
Bo has worked for Gifford Construction of Redding, California, during the summer where he particularly enjoyed the joy of “seeing our works well planned, designed, and completed.” He participated in the Concrete Canoe Team competition and has been a teaching assistant for the materials, physics and mathematics programs – two experiences he said have deepened his commitment to community service, education and teamwork. Bo looks forward to completing his studies at UMaine and participating in more community service activities.
Clarissa Livingston was born in Bangor, and grew up in Old Town. She is a recipient of the Lucius Barrows Scholarship. Her earliest memories are of traveling along the east coast of the United States to visit her father’s relatives, to Europe to visit her mother’s hometown in southwestern Germany, and to a little village in central Sweden, when her family accompanied her father on a six-month sabbatical when she was five.
That early experience gave her a love of travel and learning about different cultures. When she was 14, she went on a trip to Germany and spent a week in Munich. The architecture and infrastructure of the city inspired her to look into civil engineering and architecture as future careers. She chose civil engineering because of her interest in science and math. She is now a fourth-year civil engineering major at UMaine, and has spent a year studying abroad at the Universität Stuttgart in Germany.
Nathaniel Morrison, a Millard W. Pray Scholarship recipient, grew up around construction and transportation – particularly marine transportation. His father is a welder and marine pilot. He is in his fourth year at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, where he is a marine transportation operations major.
“Ever since I was a small child I had a keen interest in transportation,” wrote Nathaniel. “Someday, I hope to be a captain of my own ship and be in charge of making decisions that will affect what U.S. citizens pay for gasoline and other petroleum products.” This is the third year that Nathaniel has been awarded the Millard W. Pray Scholarship.
Jeremy Prue grew up in Wales, Maine, and graduated from Oak Hill High School in the top 15 students in his class. He has been awarded an MBTA-ASCE Maine Transportation Conference Scholarship.
Jeremy is in his fourth year of the civil engineering program at UMaine, where he is involved in the Concrete Canoe Team, the student chapter of ASCE and intramural sports. Jeremy was a presenter at the 2008 Maine Transportation conference, where he spoke on “User Fees Based on Vehicle Miles Traveled.”
Since Jeremy graduated high school, he has worked during the summers and on school breaks at Pine Tree Engineering in Bath. His work experience ranges from water sampling to AutoCAD work and surveying.
Jeremy plans on specializing in either transportation or structural engineering, within civil engineering.
Andrew Robinson, a student at the UMaine construction management program, has wanted to build things since he began constructing trails and bridges for ATVs and snowmobiles on his family’s property in western Maine. Last summer, he got a closer look at the construction industry when he went to work for CPM Constructors in Freeport, on a bridge construction project. He wrote: “I had the opportunity to see all of the planning and other preparation that went into the project. I hope to continue in the construction industry and eventually run my own business.”
Andrew received an MBTA-ASCE Maine Transportation Conference Scholarship. He is a member of the AGC student chapter and participates in construction-related community service projects.
Jacob Silver is a graduate of Bangor High School and a recipient of an MBTA-ASCE Maine Transportation Conference Scholarship. He grew up in the family construction business (Lou Silver, Inc.) and some of his early memories include playing among giant sand piles and riding on equipment at the company headquarters. He currently is enrolled in the UMaine construction management program and wrote, “I enjoy the challenges of getting the project done and working with people to accomplish the project.”
Jacob is a member of the AGC student chapter and this past summer worked on a 15-man crew where he was put in charge of developing traffic control plans, mobilization, preconstruction operations and conducting job meetings. He hopes to join the family business after he graduates.
Cameron Stuart hails from Sanford and graduated with honors from Sanford High School. He is in this third year studying civil engineering at UMaine, and he has made the dean’s list each semester. Cameron is a recipient of the MBTA-ASCE Maine Transportation Conference Scholarship.
He wants to focus his studies on the transportation field and spends his summers working for a company that constructs roadways and other transportation related jobs. He is also a certified flagger trainer in the state of Maine. In his spare time he enjoys playing guitar and hockey.
Brian Stover, a native of Winter Harbor, has been awarded a Paris J. Snow Memorial Scholarship. Growing up in a fishing village in Hancock County that is also the site of a former U.S. Navy base, he wrote: “There is not a lot of opportunity in the area unless you become a fisherman. My grandfather was a fisherman; however, my father decided this was not for him and worked elsewhere.”
Brian is a graduate of Sumner Memorial High School in Gouldsboro and also attended Hancock County Technical Center School in Ellsworth, where he discovered an affinity for the diesel hydraulics field. He currently is enrolled at Northern Maine Community College, where he is continuing his studies in diesel hydraulics. He has worked for Cherryfield Foods Inc., Maine’s largest blueberry grower, for the last seven years as a general field laborer and mechanic.
What’s the worst road in Maine?
The MBTA launches the ‘FixMaineRoads’ Project to raise awareness of poor roads and their impact on Maine.
Bad roads are a nuisance. They slow us down. They damage our vehicles and cost the average Maine driver $250 every year in additional maintenance costs. Bad roads increase the cost of doing business. And they present a serious safety risk to drivers.
This winter, the MBTA is launching a campaign to raise awareness of the effects bad roads have on everyday life and work in Maine. The “Fix Maine Roads” project is inviting drivers from all areas of Maine to tell us their stories of the worst roads in Maine: accidents that happened, damage caused to their vehicles and the time they lose every day because of rough roads.
We are also asking Mainers to nominate the roads they think are the worst road in Maine. Here’s how it works:
MBTA has a web page (www.FixMaineRoads.org), a special e-mail address (FixMaineRoads@mbtaonline.org) and a Facebook page (www.facebook/FixMaineRoads) where Mainers can send their photos and stories about “The Worst Road in Maine.”
One grand prize will be awarded to the person submitting “The Worst Road in Maine” at the end of the 2010 pothole season in May.
MBTA also will award prizes to two runners up.
The Marriner way
A fourth generation steps in at the venerable Rockport paving firm
By Kathryn Buxton
Mike Marriner is a virtual encyclopedia of paving. That’s little surprise, since he joined the family business, Marriners, Inc., in 1969 – sweeping floors, loading trucks and doing whatever else his father Gil Marriner asked.
Mike is a third generation paving entrepreneur, and Marriners is a fixture in midcoast Maine (his two children are the fourth generation to join the business). The family owned business has been paving in the region ever since the mid-1940s when Clyde and Arline Marriner, Mike’s grandparents, invested in a 1939 dump truck with a 200-gallon tow-behind tar tank. Over the past 60-plus years, the company has paved roads and highways in virtually every town in the region and worked on hundreds of residential home sites and commercial developments, as well.
Mike describes how his grandparents’ young company utilized the materials and technology of the day. They used coal tar as a binder and, of course, manual labor which was in ample supply. In the beginning, Marriners’ ran a crew of two, spreading tar and rolling the surfaces of driveways and parking lots by hand. It was backbreaking work and time consuming – the first job the company took on in 1945 reportedly took a full month to complete. But that didn’t deter the Marriners. The couple had both worked at the Knox Woolen Mill in downtown Camden, and through hard work, they had owned and operated a filling station and garage in town. Now, they were ready to think bigger – and they saw a future in paving.
“At first, the business just did driveways and small parking lots, but we began to grow in the 50s,” said Mike sitting in the Marriners’ conference room on a recent winter afternoon. That changed as the technology changed and Marriners switched from the coal tar binder to a petroleum-based mix being touted by the Shell Oil Company in the 1950s.
“Shell came around and said we’ve got a product called asphalt and it works better,” said Mike. It certainly helped Marriners decide to make the switch when Shell gave his grandfather a free transport load of the “new” asphalt to try out.
The 1950s was a time of major growth for the company. Marriners built its first asphalt plant on Knowlton Street in Camden in the early 1950s. Mike describes the plant as a “Rube Goldberg-like contraption” that his grandfather and dad constructed from materials at hand. The plant produced 10 tons every 15 minutes, and allowed the company to start bidding on a broader range of projects, including tennis courts, paving for commercial projects and a growing number of local, state and municipal jobs as the region began to modernize its network of roads.
In 1958, Marriners grew again when the family purchased a 160-acre site on Jefferson Road in Washington, Maine. The company built a state-of-the-art asphalt plant at the site in the early 1960s that produced three-quarters of a ton per minute. The Washington site has also served as a gravel pit, and the company continues to sell materials from that location.
Five years later, Marriners more than tripled the size of its asphalt plant in Washington so that it could produce two-and-a-half tons per minute. That made the company one of the largest asphalt producers in the region, generating enough material to serve a 24-town area. In fact, in the mid-1970s, Marriners set a record for the amount of asphalt produced in a single day in Maine.
For more than six decades, the Marriners have presided over the business and helped it grow. Mike worked side by side with his grandfather Clyde and grandmother Arline (she kept the company’s books) until they both retired in 1972. Mike’s parents Gil and Arlene continued, running the company until they retired 12 years ago when the third generation officially took over. Mike, with his twin brother Jeff and sister Linda (they all joined the company in the late 60s) successfully worked together and operated the business until 2006. That’s when Jeff and Linda chose to pursue other interests, and Mike purchased the company.
To help in the transition, Mike asked his own wife and kids – Sheila, Sarah and Zach – to pitch in. Each of the Marriners currently working for the company brings a different talent to the business. Mike has an engineering degree from UMaine and serves as president. Sheila is a registered nurse and serves as the company’s safety and compliance officer. Sarah, Marriners’ vice president for finance, earned a degree in resource and business management from UMaine. She worked at the financial services company MBNA during her college years and at First National Bank of Damariscotta (now called The 1st) for a year before joining Marriners in 2005. Zach, Marriners’ vice president of sales, earned a degree in business information systems technology and also worked for MBNA in its IT department before joining Marriners.
For his part, Mike has tried to employ lessons he learned from his father when working with his own children. He remembers starting with the company and his father telling him that he had to fire an employee who damaged one of the company vehicles. He was scared, but he stepped up.
“I was this scrawny 19-year-old, and he was this big 30-year-old,” recalled Mike. Needless to say, the man did not take it well and stormed out threatening all kinds of retribution. “He came back three days later and shook my hand and said ‘You were right.’ Of course, he wanted his job back, too.”
Family stepping in and shouldering responsibility is the Marriner way, says Zach who first worked for the company as a teenager. And while it means long hours and hard work, it has its benefits including family time and a shared work ethic. “The family business doesn’t stop at 5. It’s constant all the time,” said Zach. “While it would be nice to take a day and go to the lake, the value of working with family is, that despite the ups and downs, you know if you work hard enough there’s a reward in it.”
Sarah agreed. “Not many young people can afford to stay in Maine,” she said. “The family business has opened doors that have allowed us to stay here, near our family.”
Like his dad, Mike has entrusted his own kids with major responsibilities in the business and includes them in all the major business decisions that are made. He also encourages them to be active in the community. Marriners is an MBTA member, and Mike and Sheila are regular supporters of the MBTA Infrastructure Golf Tournament. Mike was a founding board member of the Maine Asphalt Paving Association and the Maine Aggregate Association and remains active in those organizations. Closer to home, Mike, Sarah and his dad Gil are longtime Rotary members, and Marriners belongs to both regional chambers of commerce: the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce. Mike is particularly proud of helping to found the Mid-Coast Maine Soap Box Derby and was an officer of the organization for a decade. Mike, who earned the Eagle Scout rank when growing up, continues to support scouting by serving as district chairman for the Downeast District board.
With the 2010 paving season yet to begin, things are operating with a quiet hum at the firm’s Rockport offices. The winter season began with a healthy dose of snow and ice, so there has been a brisk business selling sand out of their Washington quarry. There’s also the annual round of maintenance to complete on the Washington asphalt plant and the company’s fleet of pavers, trucks and other equipment in preparation for the upcoming paving season.
Mike talks about the recession and the effect it has had on the local construction industry. A slower commercial and residential market and fewer state and local dollars have made the paving industry increasingly competitive, cutting profit margins to bare minimums over the past two years. The recession, too, has made competing contractors even hungrier.
“I’ve been through three of these [recessions], but I’ve never seen it like this before,” said Mike. He said the industry, too, is changing, as Maine, its municipalities and paving contractors learn how to cope with substantial price fluctuations for petroleum-based asphalt and make due with less. It hasn’t helped that material costs have skyrocketed.
“Back in 1972 when asphalt was $26 a ton, that was one thing. We’ve seen it go to almost $1,000 per ton two years ago, and that felt like the end of the world,” he said. “But it wasn’t.”
Mike is hopeful that Maine leaders will step up and again make transportation a priority in the state, as it was when his grandfather worked on his first road paving projects in the 1950s and 60s.
“Good infrastructure is key to the survival of business in Maine,” said Mike. “It used to be that transportation was a priority and got the funding, but now that’s been reversed. Transportation is the sliver, and we need to invest in infrastructure so our businesses and tax base can grow.”