‘Skin in the game’
MPI program allocates $7 million to locally driven capital projects
One of the concerns we hear about the operations of state government is the amount of time it can take to get things accomplished. As the director of maintenance and operations for MaineDOT, I am proud to say that in an emergency – flooding, road washout, snow event, etc. – our response is immediate, efficient and effective. However, when it comes to planned capital projects, the process may seem rather slow, especially from the municipal perspective.
The Municipal Partnership Initiative (MPI) program was conceived and developed in early 2011. It is a creative way to develop, fund and build projects of municipal interest on the state infrastructure system with MaineDOT as a partner. It is our intention that this program remains simple, flexible and fast moving. The program has taken off quickly, and we have already received proposals from more than 20 municipalities to participate.
The overall goal of the MPI program is to respond to municipal interests, leverage economic opportunities and improve safety whenever possible while ensuring the public gets good value for their tax dollars. The program allows projects that are of a lower statewide priority but of importance to the community to receive improvements. If the town is willing to have “skin in the game,” then we’re going to work with them to help meet their needs.
Unless waived by the commissioner, the state funding contribution for a project is capped at $500,000 and generally has a state share of 50 percent or less. State funding for MPI is limited by available funds, which may be impacted by revenue projections, legislative budget deliberations, bid prices and the severity of winter weather. For the FY 12-13 biennium, MaineDOT has $7 million for the MPI. Funding shares are negotiated on a case-by-case basis, depending on the extent of regional or statewide benefits. Consideration is given to the impact a project has on eliminating the need for current and future projects and maintenance needs. The option also exists for municipalities to propose shifting long-term maintenance responsibilities as part of their share. Municipal interest has been high, meaning available MPI funding for the next year and a half is dwindling.
In order to be eligible, each project must meet the following criteria:
- Professional Engineer Certified: Unless waived by MaineDOT’s chief engineer, all projects must be designed by an engineer licensed in Maine. Once constructed, the engineer of record must certify that the project was built in accordance with the plans and specifications.
- 10-Year Useful Life: Unless waived by MaineDOT’s chief engineer, the work must have a minimum 10-year useful life.
- Deliverability: Usually construction will be administered by the municipality, when this is the case the municipality must demonstrate to MaineDOT that they have the ability or can obtain the ability to administer the project. Construction must be certified complete 24 months from when a cooperative agreement is signed.
- Public Involvement: The municipality is responsible to lead the public involvement process consistent with all laws, including Maine’s Sensible Transportation Policy Act.
- Betterment to the State Transportation System: The work covered must be betterment to the state transportation system above and beyond the requirement of any law or permit condition. For instance, investments must be improvements above and beyond mitigation for a traffic movement permit or above and beyond the legal requirements of a highway opening permit.
- Multiple Party Agreements: The municipality and all involved parties must be willing to enter into an agreement whereby the MPI grant amount is capped, based on project estimates prior to construction.
- Right-of-Way Acquisition: MPI grants will only reimburse for the right of way required for the transportation betterment. Most projects are expected to be within existing rights of way. However, the municipality may be asked to secure any needed property rights in accordance with all applicable State and Federal
In closing, MPI projects are a great way for the state and municipalities to work together to get projects of more local importance done quickly and cost effectively.