Bad roads can be painful. The 2011 Worst Road entries demonstrate the financial and physical costs of bad roads.
By Randy Mace
‘Worst Maine Roads.’ With a record number of entries in the second annual contest, the MBTA learned just how frustrating and painful bad roads can be. By Kathryn Buxton
What’s on their minds. Talking about transportation with Representatives Kimberley Rosen and George Hogan. By Maria Fuentes
Putting it on the line. Golf Classic raises $20,000 for infrastructure fund.
Learning to think green. Green jobs are topic at Aroostook meeting.
Hot wheels. Maine Commercial Tire owners win national kudos for recession strategies.
Quinn takes the A Train. NNEPRA leader a “Woman to Watch.”
Lane’s Alger elected. Will head Construction Round Table.
Irene aftermath. MaineDOT and contractors make fast work of storm cleanup. By Joyce Taylor
Bad roads can be painful
By Randy Mace, MBTA President
Carol Kelley of Waldo is this year’s winner of the second annual “Worst Road in Maine” contest, but it was the words of her disabled son, Michael, born with a congenital disability, that caught our attention.
Her entry nominating Routes 131, 137 and 141 made the judges take note: Her son, she wrote, has a spinal rod and his shouts of pain when she hits a rough patch are her “gauge” for road conditions. “Waldo County roads need serious work. Therefore, I nominate Routes 131,139, 141 and all secondary roads that lead to anywhere around here.”
If a road is bad, most people choose a different route. Michael, who feels a bad road in his bones, was forced to change high schools. Carol told us that even with the route change, Michael still had a rough ride, so she and her husband invested $1,100 in special springs to help ease the pain.
While most people didn’t feel the impact of bad roads as personally as Carol and Michael Kelley, discontent about the condition of our roads may be growing. This year the Worst Road contest drew more than twice the entries of last year’s contest. The contest gives Maine drivers a welcome opportunity to gripe about the condition of their highways. We also award a $250 check for car repair – the amount the average Mainer pays in added vehicle maintenance costs due to bad roads. Still, we suspect many of the people who nominated roads and sent photos just appreciated the chance to sound off. Many of them we spoke with hope that, somehow, their nomination will raise awareness of just how bad their road is and convince someone to fix it.
That’s not going to be easy. Maine will be spending $230 million less on its highways and bridges in this biennium. There has been support among several Republican and Democratic legislators for a transportation bond during the second session of the Maine Legislature. If a bond does pass and goes out to voters, we could get some relief, but it will only be temporary if our leaders do not soon put their heads together and agree on a long-term funding solution.
This year, in addition to first, second and third place winners, we awarded eight runners-up. Among them was Michael Anderson of Sebago, who nominated Rt. 114 from East Sebago to North Standish that he wrote is “just terrible,” and that cost him $70 to replace a sway bar. Alic Albright of Unity chose Castine Road “for its hellacious bumps, foot deep pot holes, and frost heaves.” Polly Hafford of St. Francis sent a picture of herself holding a yardstick to show why, thanks to crumbling pavement, Route 161 may be “the narrowest road in the state.” Others include Linda Trenholm of Holden who says, thanks to Route 46, she is on a first name basis with the gang at Warren Auto Body who align her car every time she gets an oil change.
It should come as no surprise bad roads are a bigger problem than last year, the first year of our contest, and that the problem is statewide. MaineDOT and our local governments are doing the best they can with the limited resources they have to address the ever-growing list of problem roads.
We’d be willing to bet that while several of this year’s entries are slated for skinny mix paving on MaineDOT’s current work plan, they will be back in a year or two because they are in need of much more substantial repair. Laura Hall, a 2011 Worst Roads runner-up said that the road she entered in the 2010 contest (Route 220 in Washington) was paved last summer, but already areas of the new asphalt have worn away showing the cracked surface below.
The fact is, Maine has some of the worst roads in the country. This August, The Road Information Program released a report that placed Maine’s rural roads as the 14th worst in the nation and our rural bridges are the 12th worst. The research confirms what Mainers already know. Mainers also recognize the importance of good roads and the role they play in keeping citizens safe and supporting local economies.
We hope our leaders in Augusta and Washington will take responsibility and do all that they can to fix our bad roads and get our economy back on track. Because we look forward to the day when we will be able to confidently run a “Best Road in Maine” contest. Until then, it is MBTA’s mission to spread the word about the great personal and public price we all pay for every bad road in Maine.
‘WORST MAINE ROADS’: Frustrating and Painful
Second annual contest draws entries from all corners of state; 11 roads and their drivers’ experiences are singled out as among Maine’s worst.
By Kathryn Buxton
This august, The Road Information Program (TRIP) announced that Maine’s rural roads are among the worst in the country. That is not exactly news for Carol Kelley, winner of the 2011 Worst Road in Maine contest. She and her family live with that reality every day in rural Waldo County and were one of 120 Worst Road in Maine contest entries – more than double the number of people who entered the contest during its first year.
Kelley, in fact, wanted to nominate all of the roads near her home, but in the end selected just three she and her family drive daily – Routes 131, 137 and 141. The bad condition of local roads is something the Kelleys feel keenly. Son Michael was born with a congenital condition and has a spinal rod to help support his weak muscle and bone structure. Every time the Kelleys drive Michael to school, to physical therapy or to doctor appointments, is an ordeal.
“My disabled son is my gauge,” wrote Kelley when she entered the contest. “He has a spinal rod and these rough roads make it impossible for us to go anywhere without him screeching ‘Holy - - - -, Mom!’” Kelley said the roads have been so bad for so long, the family invested an extra $1,100 in special springs to help ease the ride. They also requested that Michael be transferred to a high school on a better road in a different town (he graduated from Belfast Area High School in Maine after Kelley entered the contest).
But things are looking up. This spring, two of the roads on Kelley’s list of Waldo County bad roads were slated by MaineDOT to receive maintenance surface paving this year, so many of Michael’s rides around his hometown have improved. “Routes 131 and 137 are much better, but Route 141 is still pretty rough going,” said Kelley.
And, of course, Kelley is the grand prize winner of the Worst Road in Maine contest, and that comes with a $250 check for car maintenance.
“The Kelleys’ story was especially compelling. We tend to think of bad roads as wasting our time and causing the alignment to go out on your car, but knowing that every pothole and frost heave causes your son pain, that really makes you cringe,” said MBTA President Randy Mace.
14th worst in the nation
The TRIP report on rural roads, released in early September, ranked the condition of rural roads and bridges in all 50 states. Not surprisingly, Maine and its New England neighbors fared badly in the report. Highway systems in the northeast are among the oldest in the nation and are further handicapped by harsh winter weather that wears heavily on pavement and bridge infrastructure. According to TRIP, which ranks roads based on federal and state condition reports, Maine’s rural roads are the 14th worst in the nation and its bridges are 12th worst.
“We definitely have fallen behind in our efforts to maintain our rural roads,” said MBTA’s Mace. “It’s a matter of priorities and having to make difficult decisions about where to spend the limited transportation dollars we have. All too often, this perennial shortage of funding comes at a cost to our rural roads.”
Mace noted that rural roads represented more than 50 percent of all the entries received. “It’s clear the edges of our transportation network are fraying. Those are roads that many Maine residents rely on to get to school and work and businesses need to get their products to market,” he said.
He cited the story of runner-up Alic Albright of Unity who nominated Castine Road from Bucksport to Castine. The road is a lifeline for Maine Maritime students and staff and is well known for what Albright called “hellacious bumps, foot-deep potholes and frost heaves . . . this is known by the 858 students and 52 faculty as ‘the Worst Road in Maine.’”
“In the photo Alic sent in, the road looks like the paving is just crumbling in front of your eyes, and there is no shoulder to speak of. The lack of a good shoulder is a major safety issue for rural drivers,” said Mace. This summer, MaineDOT included a sizable stretch of the road on its paving to-do list, but Mace fears the problem is still lurking right under the surface of that new coat of asphalt.
“Paving a road like this is a good short-term fix, but it’s really only a Band-Aid. This is an old road and it most certainly will need to be repaved again within a few years. It needs to be reconstructed to modern standards,” said Mace. He said rebuilding the road and improving the drainage would help keep the frost heaves and potholes from re-forming every year.
Ode to a bad road
Two people nominated Route 46 in Holden. Parts of the road north of Holden have been slated for repairs by MaineDOT this year. But this spring, when Robert Bolton and Linda Trenholm nominated the state highway, the late winter thaw-and-freeze cycle was wreaking havoc on the road. Bolton said it is so rough that local plow drivers have a hard time plowing it in the winter, making it more dangerous to travel on in snow.
Trenholm was inspired by her drive and the contest to write this poem:
My car gets kicked on Route 46!
It winds from Holden to Bucksport
Won’t you get hip to this timely tip?
Ladies, put on the sports bra
Gents strap down the tools
You’ll get more air than Seth Westcott
Off these potholes and frost heaves.
Signs of frustration
Donna Melanson’s second-place entry, West Street in Princeton, presented a witty take on just how frustrating Maine’s worst roads are for the people who depend on them. Her photo of a sign-laden telephone pole on West Street in Princeton included one announcing that the road was posted and was off limits to heavy vehicles. A second sign indicates the road is an important connector to the local airport. A third sign – hand lettered – reads “Pot Hole Blvd. Get in. Sit down. Shut up. Hang on.”
“The sign says it all,” wrote Melanson on her entry form.
Melanson takes West Street daily to her job as a bookkeeper. She makes sure to drive slowly and straddle the centerline to avoid potholes that could damage her SUV. She said the road is so bad, one neighbor couldn’t stand it any longer and moved.
“They keep filling in the potholes, but it doesn’t last,” said Melanson.
Runners up Larissa Kothenbeutel and Alvin Moore both nominated Route 127 from Woolwich to Dresden and their descriptions of the road are remarkably similar. “Lots of BUMPS, heaves, cracked crowns and potholes,” wrote Kothenbeutel. “This road has so many frost heaves and spots that are sunken in that I have bottomed out many times,” reported Moore who said he has spent $356 to repair damages caused by the bad road.
Kothenbeutel cracked an engine cover while driving on Route 127 and incurred various other repairs. Still, she counts herself lucky because she’s married to a mechanic, so only had to pay about $400 for parts. “Twenty years ago, this road wasn’t good at all, and it’s never gotten better. It’s only gotten worse,” said Kothenbeutel.
Runner-up Cynthia Layne-Butters, who nominated Route 113 in Stow, said the roads near her home have been bad for as long as she remembers and that not much has changed over the years. She remembers her mother frequently complaining when she was young. “She used to say she knocked her car out of alignment on the way to work and back in on the way home,” recalled Layne-Butters.
Urban roads, too
This year, several roads in more urban areas showed up among the entries. River Road in Windham – one of last year’s finalists – was nominated several times over and was selected as a runner-up. The road is a well-known trouble spot in southern Maine, a heavily traveled commuter corridor and major collector that carries thousands of vehicles every day. According to MaineDOT, there were more than 150 accidents reported on the road between 2007 and 2009, as well as several fatalities. The department has included funding in its 2012-2013 work plan to reconstruct six miles of the road and incorporate new safety features. That is not a moment too soon for area commuters who have had to live with this dangerous road for years.
“This road is historically dangerous to drive with twists and turns, and with chronically deteriorated road surface added in, it’s unsafe. There are deep furrows and large, broken areas of holes and road surface – not only on the sides of the road but all through,” wrote Anne Balestrieri, one of more than 20 Mainers who saw fit to enter this particular road in the contest.
Washington Street in Waterville – a particularly troublesome stretch of road heavily traveled by students, staff and alumni between the Colby College Field House and Rice Rips Road – was another urban nominee that received multiple entries. “This road should be labeled undriveable,” wrote Eileen Richards.
But it was Philip Champoux who expressed the common desire of every single contest entrant with one short, simple sentence. “Please fix it.”
For more information about the winning/worst roads and MBTA’s advocacy efforts to promote safer, more efficient transportation in Maine, visit FixMaineRoads.org
1st PRIZE: Route 141 near Swanville and Belfast, Carol Kelley
2nd PLACE: West Street in Princeton, Donna Melanson
3rd PLACE: Route 105 from Windsor/Somerville to Washington, Laura Hall
RUNNER UP: Castine Road / Route 166 from Orland to Castine, Alic Albright
RUNNER UP: Route 161 in St. Francis, Polly Hafford
RUNNER UP: Route 127 from Woolwich to Dresden, Alvin Moore and Larissa Kothenbeutel
RUNNER UP: Route 46 in Holden, Linda Trenholm and Robert Bolton
RUNNER UP: Route 113 in Stow, Cynthia Layne-Butters
RUNNER UP: Route 114 from Sebago to North Standish, Michael Anderson
RUNNER UP: Washington Street in Waterville, multiple entries
RUNNER UP: River Road, Windham, multiple entries
What’s on their minds
Transportation Committee members Kimberley Rosen and George Hogan offer MBTA’s Maria Fuentes their thoughts about the MaineDOT Work Plan, user fees, bridges and ‘The Worst Road in Maine’
Maine Trails: The Highway Fund budget recently enacted by the Maine Legislature has $230 million less in funding for capital highway and bridge projects. Do you support continuing to reduce the amount of funding available for capital highway and bridge projects?
Representative George Hogan: No. Either folks should take the transportation system serious or they shouldn’t. The fact of the matter is, if legislators don’t want to support our highway system, the end result could be disastrous. On the committee, over many years we have tried a number of times to increase the revenues going into the Highway Fund. This session, many of them were taken away, including indexing and others. I am at a loss as to how we are going to fund transportation if we don’t come up with the money.
Representative Kimberley Rosen: No, I am not in favor of reducing funding. Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions, but I don’t think further reductions are the answer.
Maine Trails: Most states provide General Fund support for transportation investments – in fact at a national average of 17.65 percent of the total General Fund budget. In Maine, there is no consistent commitment of General Fund monies to support transportation infrastructure, despite the large role transportation plays in the economy and its impacts on things like sales and income tax revenues. Do you think that should change?
Rep. Hogan: Absolutely. I know that in the 80s, the percentage of monies from state revenues coming into the highways was 26 percent and now it is closer to 10 percent. As of late, we are trying to maintain what we have but forget about any effort to repair, reconstruct, and really fix things. Today, there is no highway reconstruction to speak of. At this critical time in our economy, jobs are the major issue. What better way to put people to work than through this effort?
Rep. Rosen: Yes, I do support a consistent commitment of General Fund dollars going to highways. It is clear that the transportation sector generates substantial revenues for the General Fund, and part of that should come back to maintain our system that every citizen of the state depends on.
Maine Trails: The last few work plans have been partially funded by general obligation bonds and GARVEE bonds, but this work plan has neither. Do you support passage of a transportation bond in the next session to make critical capital improvements to highways, bridges and other modes? What about a GARVEE bond for highways and bridges?
Rep. Hogan: Obviously, I do support general obligation bonds and I also support GARVEE bonding for long-term, capital improvements. It is unfortunate we couldn’t get a bond passed last session; that was an extension of the governor’s philosophy. The fact of the matter is, if you have a leak in your roof and don’t have money to fix it, do you go out and borrow money or do you allow the roof to damage the rest of the house? Obviously you fix it and we need to do the same thing with our aging system. We are a rural state and the people depend on roads and bridges. It is irresponsible not to keep them safe for the traveling public. I am hopeful we are able to pass a bond in the upcoming session. We don’t want this era to be a legacy of destruction for our transportation network.
Rep. Rosen: Yes, I do support general obligation bonds and GARVEE bonds for long-term, capital improvement projects.
Maine Trails: Public investment in infrastructure has been a way to jumpstart the economy during difficult economic times in the past. Do you think that model still works today?
Rep. Hogan: Yes, I do. It should work. We need to put people back to work.
Rep. Rosen: It is clear now that the economy needs much more than a jump start. We have too many people who are out of work, and our economy is really hurting. I am supportive of infrastructure spending that provides long-term benefits. Having said that, I certainly don’t support bridges to nowhere, or spending that only generates short-term benefits. We need to invest strategically
Maine Trails: Knowing we have to set priorities on where to spend our limited transportation dollars, where are the best places to spend those limited dollars?
Rep. Hogan: There are so many areas of need, but bridges have to be the number one priority and I guess we should start right down there in Kittery. The washouts after the hurricane should have been a wakeup call that we need to get our bridges up to date. I don’t know what kind of emergency money we will be getting, but if we have many more natural disasters, we should be concerned that bridges will be falling down, because many of them are not built to modern standards.
Rep. Rosen: That is a tough one, because we live in a dynamic world, and sometimes we have to change priorities. For instance, if we have a hurricane or other disaster, we need to be sure the bridges impacted are fixed immediately. Sometimes we have to change our priorities, based on our needs, but bridges are always an important investment.
Maine Trails: Maine was recently ranked 12th worst in the nation for the condition
of our bridges. Do you think finding a way to fix our bridges should be one of
Rep. Hogan: Absolutely. We have bridges that need to be replaced or rehabbed throughout the entire state, from Fort Kent to Kittery.
Rep. Rosen: Yes, bridges connect our communities and are a gateway for commerce, so it is obvious we should be fixing those bridges that need to be rehabbed or replaced.
Maine Trails: If you could request the federal government to fund one transportation project in Maine, what project would that be?
Rep. Hogan: Definitely the Kittery bridges. Our entire state and region depends on those bridges for commerce, tourism, and it is critical we take care of those.
Rep. Rosen: That one is so hard because there are so many needs. My first instinct is to make all our bridges safe, but I can’t point to one bridge. I think we should ensure that every bridge is safe, because that is what the citizens expect and deserve.
Maine Trails: The gas tax was originally designed as a direct user fee, but has lost a lot of its buying power in the past 30 years. Do you think user fees are a good way to fund transportation? If so, what kinds of user fees would you support?
Rep. Hogan: We need to take a comprehensive look at the situation. I can’t say that user fees are the only answer. We need a comprehensive look and user fees may be part of a solution, but we may need other solutions as well.
Rep. Rosen: Generally my answer would be no, because funding our transportation should come from the broad general taxation. Even if you don’t use a particular road, they benefit everyone, because companies like Hannaford and so many others need safe roads and bridges to get their products to market. Without a decent transportation system, we cannot improve our economy.
Maine Trails: Rail is seen as an effective way to move freight – and people. Do
you think Maine should be finding ways to increase investment in this mode
Rep. Hogan: The Downeaster is important as it connects our communities and has been good for the state. I support it. We do have to be careful about increasing the subsidy, however, because we don’t want it to cost the taxpayers too much. So yes, we need to invest, but it should be done strategically.
Rep. Rosen: I believe that our current levels of investment are sufficient at this time, given our lack of resources.
Maine Trails: What is your biggest priority for the next session of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee? In your opinion, what was the most important achievement by the committee this year?
Rep. Hogan: There are two areas: obviously, solidifying the finances for the Kittery bridges and for bridges throughout the state, is one, but we also need to get on track for new bonding so that we can provide jobs and get some of the backlog filled. We are going to fall so far behind – again, we talk too much about maintenance, but we don’t deal with the big issue, which is the highway reconstruction program. Those are the projects that make our roads safe for our families and communities. I don’t feel great having my legacy be that we didn’t address the problem, and we left it to the next group of legislators.
We passed some important safety measures like banning texting while driving. We should have done it years ago – but legislators weren’t ready for that when I put in a bill. But it is good that we did it now.
Rep. Rosen: The biggest achievement was getting a unanimous vote for the Highway Fund budget. In terms of a priority, as a committee, we all need to continue to work together to come up with a funding formula to make all our roads passable. I supported, along with many other committee members, having more money from the General Fund go to highways so we will continue working to that end.
Maine Trails: We have an annual contest called “The Worst Road in Maine.” If you were entering this contest, which road would you choose to enter? Why is it so bad?
Rep. Hogan: I am fortunate because the roads I travel on daily aren’t horrendous, so it would be hard to pick one but I do know that in the rest of the state, there are roads that are undriveable, and we can’t expect people to continue to fork over so much money in car repairs because we can’t figure out how to fix our roads.
Rep. Rosen: The two roads that I would have entered in the spring are now in good shape, due to maintenance surface treatment paving. The road to Castine and Route 46 are very good to drive on now. The road to Castine has been skinny-mixed, and Route 46 has been as well, but we have a commitment from MaineDOT to have Route 46 repaired as well. I worked with the town and Commissioner Bernhardt to get Route 46 repaired and we are very happy that they have agreed. So both roads I would have nominated are in good shape now.
Putting it on the line
15th MBTA Golf Classic raises more than $20,000 for Infrastructure Fund
The weather couldn’t have been better as 144 MBTA members and friends headed out July 14 for a day on the links. This year, the annual MBTA Golf Classic was held at the Augusta Country Club, a scenic and challenging course on the shores of Lake Cobbosseecontee in Manchester that was first established in 1916.
The sunny skies and casual atmosphere belied the serious nature of the event. The annual event raises funds for the Infrastructure Development Fund that supports the MBTA’s mission of outreach and public awareness.
“This is a hardworking group, and much of what we do is about education – informing the public about the importance of investing in our roads, bridges, ports and rail. Getting together today and enjoying each other’s company while we are working toward that goal is one of the great benefits of MBTA membership,” said Randy Mace, MBTA president.
There was serious golf, as well. Thirty-six foursomes lined up for the shotgun start just outside the clubhouse. Competition was tight. Two teams tied for the top spot in the low gross competition with a score of 59. The winners were determined by the longstanding tradition of matching the scorecards to see which foursome had the better score in the last nine holes. In the end, Garry LaPierre, Peter Hughes, Phil Mattingly and Randy Clark had the better back end, so Pete Webb, Joe Rollins, Don Arnold and Terry Whitney took home second.
The competition for low net was close, as well, with just a fraction of a point separating the winning team of Tom Biegel, Bob Brady, Mark Barnes and Mike O’Brien (51.6) from second place finishers Harold Newman, Jeff Bouchard, Harold Bouchard and Irvin Smith (52).
Sue Grondin was the most-winning player of the day. Her foursome – that included Bette Grondin, Bess Hey and Joan Hall – won top women’s honors. She had the longest drive among the women golfers and won closest to the pin, too. Among the men, Jeff Bouchard won longest drive and Brian Emmons was closest to the pin.
The day closed with a reception and awards ceremony presided over by Golf Planning Committee Chair Tim Folster. Folster not only announced tourney winners, he thanked players, committee members, volunteers and sponsors for coming together to make the event a success. “We raised more than $20,000, and that money will go to make sure transportation in Maine is safer and more efficient for years to come,” said Folster.
FMI: The MBTA Infrastructure Development Fund was established by the MBTA Board of Directors in 1997 with the goal of raising awareness of the importance of a safe and efficient infrastructure and building statewide support for investments in Maine’s highway rail, port, transit and aviation network. Learn more about the MBTA and its mission of advocacy and education.
15th MBTA Infrastructure Golf Classic 2011 Winners
1st Place / Low Gross (tie-matching scorecard)
Garry LaPierre, Peter Hughes, Phil Mattingly, Randy Clark
2nd Place / Low Gross (tie-matching scorecard)
Pete Webb, Joe Rollins, Don Arnold, Terry Whitney
1st Place / Low Net
Tom Biegel, Bob Brady, Mark Barnes, Mike O’Brien
2nd Place / Low Net
Harold Bouchard, Jeff Bouchard, Harold Newman, Irv Smith
Sue Grondin, Bette Grondin, Bess Hey, Joan Hall
Longest Drive / Men
Longest Drive / Women
Closest to the Pin / Men
Closest to the Pin / Women
1st - Adam Lamarre
2nd - Will Eisworth
Ed Miller, Terry Whitney and
Matt Holland ($233 each)
Adam Foster ($875)
Auto Auctions of Maine
H.O. Bouchard, Inc.
The Hudson Companies
The Lane Construction Corporation
The Louis Berger Group, Inc.
CDM–Wilbur Smith Associates
The Rowley Agency, Inc.
Lunch & Beverage Sponsors
Brown Industrial Group
Clean Harbors Environmental Services
T. Y. Lin International
Pike Industries, Inc.
Wyman and Simpson, Inc.
Anderson Equipment Company
Berkley Surety Group
Ted Berry Trenchless Technologies
Central Equipment Company
Chase Excavating, Inc.
Ciment Quebec, Inc.
Concord Coach Lines
Dearborn Brothers Construction, Inc.
Down East Emulsions, LLC
H. P. Fairfield, LLC
Fay, Spofford & Thorndike
Gendron & Gendron, Inc.
Gorham Sand & Gravel, Inc.
Grace Construction Products
Jordan Equipment Co.
K & K Excavation
Macdonald Page & Co LLC
Main Line Fence
Maine Drilling & Blasting, Inc.
Bruce A. Manzer, Inc.
McGoldrick Bros. Blasting Services
Pratt & Sons, Inc.
E. J. Prescott, Inc.
Shaw Brothers Construction, Inc.
Skillings Shaw & Associates
Whited Peterbilt of Maine
R. J. Grondin & Sons, Inc.
Golf Planning Committee
Tim Folster, Chair, Sargent Corp.
Tom Biegel, Shaw Brothers Construction, Inc.
Greg Dore, Town of Skowhegan
Jim Hall, George C. Hall & Sons, Inc.
Jim Hanley, Pike Industries
John Harbottle, The Rowley Agency
Larry Hutchins, Hudson Asphalt Group
Randy Mace, Anderson Equipment Co.
Tom Martin, NITRAM Excavation & GC
John Paradis, Nortrax
Larry Roberts, The Louis Berger Group
Johnny Wardwell, The Lane Construction Corp.
Greg Dore, Christina Gamache, Michelle Ibarguen, Brad Kaherl,
Jim Letteney, Pam Rogers and Don Lunn
Our gratitude goes to Cross Insurance and Charlie’s of Augusta for the
Hole-in-One prizes. To Bangor Truck & Trailer Sales, Inc. and Bangor Truck Equipment for their contributions to the MBTA Infrastructure Fund.
And to Whited Peterbilt of Maine for golf visors and Concord Coach Lines for golf tees. Your support helps make this event fun and successful!
Learning to think green
MBTA Aroostook Meeting looks at sustainability and education in The County
Learn by example. That was the overriding message leaders at the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) and Northern Maine Community College (NMCC) shared with their audience at the annual Aroostook County Meeting of the Maine Better Transportation Association August 4 in Presque Isle.
Specifically, the evening’s guest speakers discussed how sustainable energy can benefit Aroostook County’s economy and way of life. Don Zillman, president of the UMPI, Barry Ingraham, director of NMCC’s physical plant and Jason Parent, NMCC’s director of development and college relations, were the guest speakers at the Northeastland Hotel.
More than 70 MBTA members and friends gathered to hear how both schools have been recognized regionally and nationally for their efforts to integrate alternative energy into the curriculum, train a workforce that is ready for future energy jobs and build a green economy. Several local leaders and legislators were in attendance, including Transportation Committee members Representatives Alex Willette (R-Mapleton), Peter Edgecomb (R-Caribou) and Joyce Fitzpatrick (R-Houlton); Walt Elish of Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development, Denis Berube of the Northern Maine Development Commission, Theresa Fowler of the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce, Philip Bosse from U.S. Senator Susan Collins’ Aroostook office and the Honorable Pat Sutherland. (Sutherland is a former state legislator and development director for Northern Maine Community College and has worked with the MBTA to administer the Paris W. Snow Scholarships, awarded annually to students from The County pursuing transportation-related studies.)
UMPI has been in the forefront of sustainable energy initiatives in the region, and UMPI President Zillman spoke about his administration’s ‘efforts to encourage greener thinking among staff and students. In 2009, UMPI became the first Maine university – and one of the first in New England – to erect a mid-sized wind turbine to generate power. The project was financed by UMPI’s internal savings and a $50,000 grant from the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
Campus officials said they anticipated the turbine would produce about 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and save the institution more than $100,000 annually in electricity charges. When fully operational, the turbine is expected to save an estimated 572 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each year.
UMPI also recently won a 2011 Climate Leadership Award for its sustainability measures from Second Nature, a Boston-based non-profit dedicated to promoting sustainability in education.
Ingraham and Parent discussed initiatives at NMCC that have garnered national acclaim. In 2008, NMCC launched its wind power technology program, which was the first of its kind in New England. Students in the program learn to operate, maintain and repair wind turbine generators. The program quickly became popular and helped to boost enrollment at the college.
During commencement exercises at NMCC in May, the first 14 wind power technology graduates received associate degrees. The program also has attracted the attention of donors, and in April, NMCC officially dedicated the Northern Maine Center for Excellence in Alternative Energy Training and Education.
The annual August meeting in Presque Isle is a favorite gathering for many MBTA members and MBTA friends. As tradition dictates, the event ended with the announcement of the 50/50 raffle winner: Steve Perry of Sargent Corp. Perry won $88, and the remaining $88 collected for the raffle went to the MBTA Educational Foundation for transportation scholarships.
FMI: Maine Better Transportation hosts regional forums on issues affecting transportation throughout the year.
Maine Commercial Tire gains traction and high marks for its management in a challenging economy
By Kathryn Buxton
Jim Mccurdy and Jim Lynch arrive in style for their Maine Trails interview, straight from a company barbecue at Maine Commercial Tire Inc.’s Scarborough store. They pull up to a Portland diner on their Harley Davidson motorcycles, and it is immediately apparent the long-time friends and business partners take great pride in the business they have built together.
Still, they seem somewhat taken aback by all of the attention their company has been getting of late. They were jointly named Maine’s Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration, first honored at a ceremony in Bangor in early May, then whisked to Washington, D.C., where they were celebrated alongside winners from the 49 other states. To hear the two talk, it was a memorable experience. They had one-on-one meetings with Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and they took part in two days of workshops and events where they got to know their fellow winners.
“It was big time. They really fluff you up,” said McCurdy. “We had no idea what we were getting into.”
Most of all, Lynch said they were impressed with the caliber of the other SBA honorees and the SBA staff. “There’s a lot of sincerity within the small business community – these people work hard and they are good at business. The SBA staff, you might think they are a bunch of guys with green eye shades, but they really are interested in helping small businesses succeed.”
‘Plan B’ moment
Maine Commercial Tire was born out of a “Plan B” moment. McCurdy and Lynch had met during the mid-1980s when they were working for C.E. Noyes, a well-established New England tire dealership dating back to the early 1900s and with stores in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Lynch was hired in 1981 to run the company’s Maine stores. McCurdy joined Noyes in 1985 on the sales and marketing side. All went well for a while, until Noyes’ owner, Reilly Tire from Vermont, made the ill-fated decision to expand to the midwest. When the company filed for bankruptcy, McCurdy and Lynch saw an opportunity, but they had to act fast. Their goal was two-fold: first to take over the Augusta dealership and Bangor headquarters with the region’s Bandag retread franchise; and second, to convince key service and production personnel not to take other jobs.
“We made a pact. Plan B was in effect. We had to raise the capital and negotiate with the bank. We made calls to staff and said, ‘We need you, please don’t take a new job for a couple of weeks,’” recalled Lynch.
Convincing the Noyes staff that this new business venture was a good bet was important, the two Jims believed, because the people behind the old operation had invaluable experience and considerable recognition in the community.
Their fast thinking paid off. McCurdy and Lynch received financing from their bank and approval to buy two locations from Noyes’ bankruptcy trustees. Most importantly, the majority of the C.E. Noyes service and production staff stayed. The new company, known as Maine Commercial Tire, soon made its mark.
“Our whole focus was different. We geared the business to the commercial market, and we grew by a million dollars a year,” said McCurdy. The company added a Lewiston dealership in 1996 and its Scarborough location in 2005.
If anything has driven the business, it has been McCurdy and Lynch’s complementary business skills. In charge of operations, Lynch is the detail person who has focused on providing quality products and a high level of customer service. On the sales and marketing side, McCurdy’s creativity has helped the company pinpoint new markets. And today, the company is recognized as an industry leader in marketing innovative commercial tire services. In addition to traditional services such as alignments, wheel refinishing and balancing and emergency road service, Maine Commercial Tire has branched out to provide a roster of money-saving offerings for its commercial customers including fleet inspections and tire asset management.
The core of Maine Commercial Tire’s business is retreading. In a business where a typical commercial tire can cost $600 or more, retreading a damaged tire costs just about $200.
“The majority of the expense of a tire is in the casing,” said McCurdy. “The tread, that’s just a fraction of the cost. Rubber is a lot less expensive than styrene and steel.”
Retreading the tire can extend the life of a tire significantly. If the casing is in good shape, Lynch said, they can retread it up to four times. The retread process is not as simple as it sounds. It requires multiple steps, including a safety evaluation, buffing away the old tread, repairs to the casing, bonding the new tread to the casing and recycling the old tread. The company retreads more than 100 tires a day at its Hermon plant – 35,000 tires a year – for a client list that includes many of the top transportation and construction operations in Maine: H.O. Bouchard, Hannaford, The Lane Construction Corporation, MaineDOT, Pike Industries, Pottle’s Transportation, Sargent Corp., Shaw Brothers, UPS and Krisway. They have a phenomenal success rate. While typical failure rates for retread tires are as high as 50 tires per 1,000 (5 percent) Maine Commercial Tire’s rate averages only four tires per 1,000 (.04 percent).
Refining the process
Because the quality of their product depends heavily on the quality of the retreading process, the company has made substantial investments in improving and refining its manufacturing process. In 2000, the company became the first privately held tire company in the United States to receive the prestigious ISO 9002 certification.
In recent years, many customers have opted to enroll in Maine Commercial Tire’s tire asset management program, a service designed specifically for companies with fleets and sizable investments in the tires needed to run them. Maine Commercial Tire performs regular safety inspections on tires, repairs and retreads them when needed and stores fleet spares at their Hermon facility. Experience has shown that proper management of a fleet’s tires promotes safety and can save a company thousands of dollars annually.
With the business growing and space getting tight at the plant, McCurdy and Lynch made the decision to expand in the mid-2000s, but the timing was unfortunate. In 2008, they cut the ribbon on a newly expanded plant and storage facility, just as fuel prices were skyrocketing and the country entered “the Great Recession.”
Retrench, rethink, refinance
The recession hit the company and its customers hard, and suddenly it was time to retrench, rethink and refinance. McCurdy and Lynch made some difficult decisions about staffing and laid off some employees. Lynch added the duties of controller to his responsibilities and took on sorting out the company’s finances and leading the application process for a new bank loan. (It was their lending officer, Angela Butler at Peoples United Bank, who nominated them for the SBA award.)
“I don’t see myself as the accountant type,” said Lynch. “But I was the one who spent most of the money, and there has been a lot of on-the-job training.”
McCurdy redoubled efforts on the sales side. “I’m a hunter, and I like to win.” Staff chipped in, as well. McCurdy and Lynch convened an employee cost control committee to devise ways to trim expenses. “We said, ‘Everyone has a $5,000 idea.’” One of the most effective ideas came from those employee suggestions – installing motion detectors on lights. That has helped trim the company’s sizable electric bill. Another good idea was to use a three-part form to track tires that come in for retreading rather than the four-part form the company had been using for nearly two decades. “One copy just gets thrown away, and what’s the point of that. That one saved us $500 a year,” said Lynch.
In all, those employee-led efforts have saved the company $65,000 a month. McCurdy even credits the recession with making Maine Commercial Tire a better company. “If the economy had stayed fine, there would have been a lot of fluff that cost a lot of money and we would never have known about it,” said McCurdy. He said they plan to bring the cost cutting committee together again soon. “We know we won’t be able to save as much this time around, but it engenders a mindset and keeps people thinking,” said McCurdy.
The partners continually bring the conversation back to their employees and clearly are grateful for individual contributions that have helped the company thrive throughout good times and bad. They have high praise for several long-time employees and reel off names: Al Nadeau who runs the retread operation and has helped the company maintain its well-deserved reputation for quality; Steve Roberts, the production manager who constantly acts as a liaison between the plant, service and sales staffs; and Tammy White who knows the computer system “better than anyone.”
Weight limits and more
For their part, McCurdy and Lynch support causes that are close to them. Maine Commercial Tire is a long-time member of Maine Better Transportation Association, Associated Builders & Contractors, Associated General Contractors and Maine Motor Transport Association. McCurdy is MMTA’s current chairman and has been a vocal supporter of efforts for federal legislation that would allow trucks up to 100,000 pounds on the interstate. Maine and Vermont were granted a temporary exemption in late 2009, while transportation officials studied the effect it had on safety and highway condition, as well as the lower pollution and business costs. But winning approval for a permanent exemption has proven more problematic.
“It’s a matter of the health and well-being of the trucking and construction industries,” said McCurdy who brought the issue up when they met with Senators Snowe and Collins last May.
The company also supports many causes and institutions in the communities where it does business, including the Maine Cancer Center and local sports teams. Every year, the company organizes contributions to the United Way.
When someone brings up the subject of retirement, both McCurdy and Lynch emphatically state that slowing down is not part of the business plan. “I enjoy what I’m doing,” said McCurdy.
For his part, Lynch is looking forward to the day when cost-cutting isn’t the first order of business. “The recession is so tedious, and all that constant nagging to think lean is getting old for the employees,” said Lynch. “But the profitability is there and the future is good.”
Quinn takes the A train
Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, was recently named one of MaineBiz magazine’s 2011 “Women to Watch.”
“When I started this job I had never ridden a train before,” Quinn told MaineBiz. That was 11 years ago. Today she is recognized as an expert on developing passenger rail in rural markets and for making a lasting impact on Maine’s transportation infrastructure and economy. The mission of the Portland-based NNEPRA is to bring back passenger rail to the state.
MaineBiz reported that she and her five-person staff have transformed a fledgling Downeaster train between Boston and Portland into a viable, popular transportation mode. Last year, the Downeaster served 500,000 annual passengers, a ridership increase of 8 percent over the previous year. Since 2005, ridership and revenue have grown by more than 100 percent. NNEPRA’s annual operating budget is $15.2 million, 54 percent of which is generated from ticket, parking and food sales.
Quinn has also led NNEPRA’s expansion of the Downeaster to Freeport and Brunswick, a $38 million construction project now under way. That project is being funded with a competitive $35 million federal grant.
Quinn told MaineBiz she’s currently concentrating on cutting the travel time between Portland and Boston to just over two hours. The service will add two more daily round-trips for a total of seven. She’s also determined to make the Brunswick expansion a success, using the same tactics she brought to the original Portland-to-Boston service: niche marketing to college students and professors, patients of city doctors, sports fans and shoppers.
For all her successes, Quinn admits she’s disappointed train revival hasn’t come along faster, and acknowledges the critics who’d rather have a commuter train — something she wants as well — when there’s funding for it.
Quinn grew up in Norwich, Conn., attended Eastern Connecticut State University, then spent seven years working her way up in the hotel business. She eventually became general manager for the DoubleTree Hotel in Portland. NNEPRA first hired her as a part-time consultant in 2000. She was promoted to executive director in 2005. Throughout, Quinn has held on to a philosophy she learned as a child: “If you’re going to do something, do it well. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.”
Looking back, she says her greatest accomplishment at NNEPRA was adding the fifth train between Portland and Boston in 2008.
Lane’s Alger elected Round Table head
Robert E. Alger, president and CEO of The Lane Construction Corporation, has been elected chairman of the Construction Industry Round Table (CIRT).
Alger said he would work to build “a greater awareness with leaders outside of the industry as it relates to the desperate need to properly fund and improve our nation’s first-class infrastucture.”
“Bob’s selection continues a tradition of having strong leaders who represent the finest qualities and abilities in our industry,” commented Mark A. Casso, CIRT’s president. “Bob will bring energy and vision to the role of chairman, with a dynamic leadership style.”
Previously, Alger served with CIRT as vice chairman and treasurer before accepting his new position with the non-profit organization. Alger started his career at Lane 32 years ago after graduating from Penn State University with a degree in civil engineering. After serving as job engineer, project engineer, project manager and vice president, Alger became president and CEO in 2001. During his decade at the helm, Lane’s revenue has grown by $700 million—to more than $1 billion today.
Founded by railroad engineer John S. Lane in 1890, Lane constructs quality highways, bridges, locks, dams, racetracks, and mass transit and airport systems in 20 states.
CIRT is a national business trade association with more than 100 chief executive officers from the leading design/construction companies in the United States and globally. Member firms directly employ more than 500,000 people, and are responsible for more than $120 billion in public and private infrastructure projects.
FMI: To learn more about the Lane Construction Corporation, visit www.laneconstruct.com
. For more information about the Construction Industry Round Table, visit cirt.org
The storm had been predicted, but despite the planning, no one could prepare for 8.5 inches of rain dumped over a course of several hours. According to the National Weather Service, that was the amount of rain that fell in the Sugarloaf region the night Tropical Storm Irene churned through Carrabassett Valley. The localized downpour filled up streams and rivers, and surged downhill.
The Sugarloaf Mountain area is a bowl, where water collects and funnels down through a relatively narrow area. At the mouth of that funnel were two bridges on Route 27: the Brackett Brook Bridge, a 24-foot precast arch structure built in 1999, and the North Branch Bridge, a 39-foot scour-critical bridge built in 1958.
The water in those two streams rose rapidly, and within a span of 15 minutes, one eyewitness said that the water went from well under the bridge to over the road. Within minutes of that, both bridges were washed out, effectively isolating the Sugarloaf/USA resort.
Route 27 is a vital economic corridor for the region, and it also links the communities of Stratton, Carrabassett Valley and Kingfield.
Recognizing the importance of this road to the community, the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) began working around the clock to restore traffic to Route 27, reconnect the Sugarloaf Resort to Route 27 and repair a dangerous washout in the S-curves south of the bridges.
Monday morning, a little over 12 hours after the bridges washed out, the MaineDOT began working with Sugarloaf to restore traffic to the popular resort. In the field, MaineDOT engineers met with Sugarloaf personnel to open up a series of private roads that would connect Route 27 with the Sugarloaf Access Road. By mid-morning, access to the resort from the south was restored.
That same day, just hours after the bridges washed out, MaineDOT began the process of getting authorization from Governor LePage to utilize an accelerated contracting process that would allow MaineDOT to have construction crews working on installing temporary bridges in hours. Due to storm damage throughout northern New England, the process was essential to secure these services before contractors might commit their services to another state.
MaineDOT had designed an expedited process, briefed the governor, and then started interviewing five pre-qualified construction companies. All five companies had worked with MaineDOT before, and all possessed the engineering capability, equipment, and components to perform the necessary work.
Tuesday, while a team of MaineDOT personnel were interviewing contractors, MaineDOT maintenance personnel were repairing Route 27 in order to get heavy equipment to the bridge sites. MaineDOT also secured a 100-foot long aluminum pedestrian bridge that was installed over the Carrabassett River.
This pedestrian bridge gave people who lived north of Sugarloaf access to the resort instead of taking a 66-mile detour. It also provided relief to the local school district, as students could utilize the bridge to get to school instead of spending an hour-and-a-half on the bus due to the detour.
On Wednesday, after a few remaining details were worked out, Reed & Reed, Inc., of Woolwich, began work to remove the washed-out bridges and install the two temporary bridges.
Crews worked extended days and all three days of Labor Day weekend in order to reach a self-imposed deadline of opening the temporary bridges on Tuesday, September 6. In appreciation of their efforts, the town of Carrabassett Valley hosted a Labor Day cookout for those working on the bridge.
On Tuesday at 8 p.m., just six days after construction started, traffic again flowed along Route 27 over the two temporary bridges.
It marked a successful culmination of efforts by both private and public sectors that provided needed relief to a region battered by a storm, and showcased a tremendous accomplishment that could only be achieved by working together.