Voting for better roads. On November 6, voters will decide the fate of a $51.5 million transportation bond. By Doug Hermann.
Dissecting Question #4. Leaders on the importance of a YES vote on the transportation bond. By Maria Fuentes.
Up in the air. An interview with new Bangor International Director, Tony Caruso. By Maria Fuentes.
Connecting with the Caribou Connector. Long-awaited bypass completed in Aroostook County.
A new Scotia ferry? Provincial government pledges support for Maine-Nova Scotia service.
Roads + rail. Commissioner Bernhardt addresses MBTA Aroostook Meeting.
Tee totals. Members raise $23,000 for MBTA Infrastructure Development Fund.
Pit bosses. Jon and Dan Shaw built an empire from rock and dirt. By Kathryn Buxton.
From point A to point B. The decision to pause the East-West Highway study. By David Bernhardt, P.E., MaineDOT Commissioner.
Voting for better roads
By Douglas Hermann, MBTA President
In this issue of Maine Trails, we have our eye on the November 6 ballot – particularly on Question 4, the $51.5 million transportation bond. While Mainers have voted overwhelmingly in favor of every highway transportation bond since 1969, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels, just assuming this bond will pass. We need to get out the transportation vote because there has been some concern around borrowing in the recent past. And when it comes to transportation bonds, that concern is undeserved.
The truth is transportation bond issues are an excellent way to make investments in jobs and in Maine’s future. This bond is no exception. First, there are the matching funds to consider. If passed, the bond dollars will match $105.6 million in federal, local and private matching funds. That is a two-to-one return on investment – a return any one of us would welcome in our own businesses.
The biggest return will be in federal matching funds for roads and bridges. The bond calls for $41 million to repair and reconstruct Maine highways and bridges, and that will be paired with another $72 million in federal matching funds – for a total of $113 million. That portion of the bond also will be responsible for creating or sustaining more than 3,100 family wage jobs, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Even bigger rates of return will come from other transportation investments in the bond. The $1.2 million in the bond allocated for transit will bring another $9 million in federal matching funds to help replace our aging transit fleet and facilities. The $6.5 million to be invested in our port facilities at Eastport and the channel at Searsport and Mack Point will bring $10 million in federal funds and another $2 million in private matching funds. The $1.2 million for Maine’s airports will add another $10.8 million in federal funds, and $1 million for rail will spur $1.5 million in private investment through the popular IRAP program (Industrial Rail Access Program).
The bond also calls for $300,000 for the LifeFlight Foundation for helipads in rural areas, and that has a one-to-one match that will come from local government.
What I feel are the most important returns are those that are harder to measure, but equally important. They are the dollars we spend to make our roads and bridges safer, improve our quality of life and brighten our future.
Let’s face it; the cost of not voting YES on 4 will have an even greater impact. It could cost lives because it will set Maine back in its efforts to rebuild its roads to modern safety standards. Who wants to think of their children or grandchildren riding to school on a narrow, bumpy, pothole-filled road? Or of police, ambulances and fire trucks diverted because of an aging bridge that cannot bear the load?
It also could cost thousands of jobs for Mainers in all walks of life. Think of truckers who have to spend more time on the road and hundreds of additional dollars in fuel because of rough roads. Then there are the businesses that decide to locate somewhere else because the cost of getting their people to work or their products to market is just too great. We can’t afford not to invest.
And what about the missed opportunity of borrowing funds for long-term projects at a time when interest rates are at a historic low? What about putting projects out to bid at a time when engineering and construction companies are desperately looking for work – so that they can keep their people employed? What about the savings to taxpayers of borrowing money at a time when much more work can be done for less?
Although Governor LePage has said he will put bonds off until the state lowers its debt levels, we hope that we can work with him to move forward on transportation investment. A savvy and experienced businessman, the governor knows that investing in our infrastructure at a time that debt service and construction costs are at historic lows, helps companies reduce their transportation costs. We know that he is committed to decreasing costs for Maine businesses. We must work with him to build support for more transportation investment, and we look forward to working with him in the next legislative session.
Voters have supported transportation bonds by wide margins. They know why transportation is important to their daily lives – it is a bread and butter issue for them. A safe, efficient transportation system is essential to the well being of the people of Maine and our economy. But it is up to us to get this message out.
So thank you in advance – to all our members who will help us get the word out about the importance of investing in transportation construction at a time when taxpayers are guaranteed to get a great return on their investment.
I would also like to thank our board, volunteers and members for their generous support and hard work that made our Fall Convention a great success – we had a wonderful time in Portland and saw a strong turnout (you can read more about it in the next Maine Trails). And again, I look forward to working with you to get out the vote in support of Question 4.
Cover Story: Dissecting Question 4, the transportation bond
The November election has no shortage of high profile races and candidates. Still, one ballot issue MBTA members will be watching closely is the $51.5 million transportation bond referendum, Question 4.
By Maria Fuentes
Question 4 is one of four borrowing issues on the statewide ballot; voters will also be deciding on $11.3 million for public higher education; $7.9 million for wastewater purification and drinking water systems; and $5 million to ensure public access to forests, shores and other open spaces through easements and purchases.
In order to send borrowing questions out to voters, the Maine Legislature must approve a package with a two-thirds vote in each chamber. Like the other bond issues, the transportation bond was broadly supported by both the Maine House and Senate, garnering a 33-to-2 margin in the Senate and 109-to-32 in the House.
Still, bond politics have become more difficult in recent years, with concern over state debt levels from some legislators and Governor LePage. In fact, there was no bond package last year, and the governor has said he won’t allow approved bonds to be sold until 2014. Nonetheless, MBTA and many other organizations, are strongly supporting these critical investments in Maine’s economy.
What’s in the bond?
Behind the transportation bond referendum are several key issues. If passed, the transportation bond will fund projects in the areas of highway and bridges, aviation, marine, rail and transit. MBTA President Doug Hermann is appealing to members to help spread the word about the importance of getting friends, neighbors and others to support the transportation bond referendum, which is Question #4 on the statewide ballot. “That’s why we formed the Vote YES on Question #4 Coalition – to reach out to other organizations who know how important it is – for jobs and for safety – to support transportation investments.”
The majority of the $51.5 million bond – $41 million – would fund repair and reconstruction of Maine roads and bridges. There is also $6.5 million for improvements to two of Maine’s deep-water ports – Searsport and Eastport – as well as $2 million for transit, $1 million for rail, $1.2 million for aviation and $300,000 for the LifeFlight Foundation.
In total, the bond would reap more than double its value in matching funds – at least $105.6 million total in federal, local and private funding. According to Federal Highway Administration estimates, the highway and bridge funding, including the federal match, would support or create more than 3,100 jobs in the Maine economy.
‘Critical’ for transit
As vehicles become more fuel-efficient, and the federal government continues to ignore states’ needs for increased highway and transit dollars, state funding for roads and bridges becomes even more critical. Unfortunately, funding has also become more scarce. During the last legislative session, MaineDOT presented and the Maine Legislature passed legislation aimed at re-classifying and re-prioritizing the state’s highway network. As a result, the state will focus its very limited resources on the most important roads. Still, based on that analysis, the state says it needs an additional $150 million per year to make critical improvements. The backlog of highways and bridges is growing each year, and this bond will help fund some of the projects identified in the department’s current work plan.
The last transportation bond did not include investments for transit. State funding for transit is critical in terms of leveraging federal funds earmarked for transit. The Maine Transit Association and its members strongly favor passage of Question 4.
“Passage of the bond is critical for projects in many parts of the state,” said Paul Murphy, president of the Maine Transit Association and general manager of Downeast Transportation in Ellsworth. He notes: “Each year transit providers statewide provide 7.5 million trips totaling almost $59 million miles in Maine. They serve every corner of the state, from on-demand van service in rural areas to fixed bus routes in our major cities. However, transit providers are operating an aging fleet of vans and buses with 131 of 433 vehicles (30 percent) in either critical or scrap condition and requiring replacement. Question #4 will provide $1 million to replace these aging vehicles, which will be matched by up to $9 million in federal and local funds.”
Matching federal funds to purchase vehicles is a good deal for Maine. According to the Maine Transit Association, the federal government provides funding for the purchase of transit vehicles by covering 80 percent of the cost, with the remainder to come from state and local bus operators, usually a municipality or regional transportation provider. Historically, the state has bonded for transit vehicles and split the local match evenly with the local bus operator. As Maine distinguishes itself as one of the oldest states in the nation, travel options become much more critical, and transit buses are an ideal way to help meet that need.
Keeping ports competitive
If voters pass Question #4, $6.5 million of the proceeds would fund marine projects. David Cole is a past MaineDOT commissioner and currently president of David Cole Consulting. He is a transportation and economic development consultant for the Action Committee of 50 on their Trade and Logistics Initiative in the Bangor Region. The group is promoting the Bangor-Searsport corridor as a transportation hub and export platform for eastern and northern Maine.
According to Cole: “The $5 million of the transportation bond targeted for Searsport will provide $3 million in state matching funds for an estimated $15 million Army Corps of Engineers dredging project to deepen the Searsport shipping channel from 35-40 feet and address long overdue maintenance issues. These much-needed improvements will enhance the port’s competitive viability by allowing shipping companies better access into the channel, thus avoiding cumbersome scheduling issues that cost our businesses time and money.”
Cole said the remaining $2 million will be used to purchase material handling equipment at Mack Point to take advantage of export opportunities in Maine’s forest products and renewable energy industries. That will provide a cost-effective gateway for other goods flowing between the U.S. heartland and overseas markets.
An expert on regional trade, Cole continued: “Bond related improvements will strengthen Searsport’s ability to serve Maine businesses as a vital gateway between international markets and the heartland of Maine, and better position Maine as a whole to participate in the export arena.”
Past bond investments in the Port of Eastport have already created jobs and supported the local Washington County economy as the port has made dramatic strides in the past five years in terms of diversifying the mix of products going through the port.
Eastport Port Director Chris Gardner has been instrumental in the port’s impressive growth. As a fiscal conservative, Gardner acknowledges that bond discussions are difficult, but he also says that investments made in infrastructure have consistently shown themselves to be some of the best investments the state can make.
“In Eastport, the people of Maine have the deepest natural seaport in the entire continental United States. The investments made there always have paid dividends – in both jobs and economic growth. In the last decade alone, investments in the port’s new Estes Head Pier gave us the ability to double our export of Maine products to the world. In the upcoming year, the Port of Eastport is again looking to expand.”
According to Gardner, Maine’s export market and the $1.5 million in the upcoming transportation bond will play a huge role in that. “The majority of the bond funds for Eastport will assist in building a new 30,000-square-foot warehouse that will allow us to take on new customers currently looking to produce and ship out of Maine.”
Past transportation bond packages have done a great deal to advance rail transportation in Maine, including the 2010 bond that helped MaineDOT purchase 144 miles of rail formerly owned by Montreal, Maine and Atlantic. Already, taxpayers are seeing a strong return on their investment. With the state owning the line and the new operator, Maine Northern Railroad, able to invest in improvements, traffic on parts of that section have tripled.
When Maine Northern took over, traffic was 100 – 120 cars per week on average. Today, the rail operator is seeing as many as 300 cars per week.
Question #4 includes funding for the popular Industrial Rail Access Program, or IRAP. It is a matching program in which either a company or municipality matches the state funds. Since its inception, IRAP has funded 39 economic development projects, mostly in rural parts of the state, where jobs are desperately needed. Earlier this year, 11 IRAP awards were announced, funded from prior bond proceeds and the state’s STAR program.
“IRAP is more of an economic development program as opposed to a railroad program and already has been proven successful in the past,” according to MRG (Maine Rail Group) President Jack Sutton.
Said Sutton: “The purpose is to increase access to rail and expand transportation options for business, with the goal of reducing their costs and making them more competitive regionally, nationally and internationally.” Awards in the past have benefitted every corner of the state, with projects from Biddeford to Madawaska, Searsport to Baileyville and Auburn.
Aviation, emergeny medical access
The $1.2 million slated for aviation would match Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funds through their Airport Improvement Program. Maine has 37 public airports, and most of them are eligible for grants within this program. Typically the FAA provides 90 percent of the funds, and the expectation is that the state and/or municipality would provide the remaining funding.
Today, the state is likely to fund five percent with the remaining five percent coming from the airport or town. Projects may include runway reconstruction, apron rehabilitation or taxiway improvements, to name a few.
Additionally, there is $300,000 for the LifeFlight Foundation, for grants for communities to build helipads in areas with high use or in remote communities. While some towns such as Sumner and Carrabassett have already built helipads on their own, others such as Gouldsboro, Stratton and Harrington are interested but lack the funding. Half of the $300,00 is slated for those grants that will cover the cost of clearing land, paving a landing pad and purchasing wind socks and signs. The remaining $150,000 would go to help build a helipad at MaineGeneral in Augusta ($100,000), and at the Blue Hill Hospital.
Investing at the ballot box
“Our citizens have figured out the importance of investing in transportation and the proof is at the ballot box where, in the last three cycles, they have supported the transportation bond with between 58 and 65 percent of the vote and the year before, the margin was 72 percent,” said MBTA President Doug Hermann.
“So the citizens get it. Now, we just need to be sure we get the message out to Maine voters.” Hermann said that one of the big tasks for MBTA members in this election cycle is to help get out the vote in support of transportation investments. “We’re faced with an annual transportation funding shortfall of $150 million, according to recent figures from MaineDOT, and while this bond will only get us part of the way there, we can’t afford to fall further behind.”
Up in the air
MBTA’s Maria Fuentes talks with Bangor International Air’s (BGR) new director, Tony Caruso, about the aviation industry and Bangor’s future as a regional air hub
Maine Trails: You worked as BIA’s assistant director for 10 years before you took on the role as interim director. What was your role as A.D. and how was that different from your new job as director?
Tony Caruso: As the assistant director, I was directly responsible for the airport’s service division of our fixed base operation (FBO). This included the divisions directly responsible for fueling, ground handling aircraft, passenger services, aircraft maintenance, ground support and airline services. I assisted with leases and contract management and spearheaded special projects. I also served as the director in her absence. As the director, I can be more involved with many of the other divisions and major projects here at BGR.
Maine Trails: What other airport management experience do you have?
Tony Caruso: Most of my experience is directly related to my service here at BGR. I started my career at BGR in 1996, and I have worked in several different capacities that have provided me with a great knowledge and understanding of our airport. I have also had the opportunity to work under two good directors: Bob Ziegelaar and Rebecca Hupp. I have worked on a few projects with Peter D’Errico. All of these people have successfully managed BGR and each has provided me with valuable experience and exposure. I also spent some time managing a small general aviation airfield in Tucson, Arizona, before returning to BGR as the assistant director.
Maine Trails: What were the biggest changes that you saw at the airport during those 10 years?
Tony Caruso: In the early part of the past 10 years, the difficulty was dealing with the constant regulatory compliance issues and unfunded mandates placed on airports. Most of these were directly related to security issues. During the latter part of the past 10 years, the concern has been dealing with the volatile fuel market and domestic airlines reducing their capacities. This continues to be a true concern for us today.
Maine Trails: How would you characterize the biggest trends in air travel during the past 10 years?
Tony Caruso: The most recent changes involve the airlines charging fees for ancillary services, such as for food, carry-on bags, and seat assignments. This presents a real change in customer spending habits. However, the airlines report that these fees help to support their financial health.
Maine Trails: Are passenger expectations different than they were 10 years ago?
Tony Caruso: Passengers have always looked for value and quality when purchasing and using air service. This continues, but today their expectations are certainly greater. We are seeing growth in areas that are related to passenger amenities. While some of these amenities may come at a direct cost to passengers, they do present real added value. This includes increased legroom and satellite TV on flights and even providing flight updates directly to passengers’ smart phones. All offer an added value and increase the quality of the service or product to the customer.
Maine Trails: How have carriers changed in that time?
Tony Caruso: Air carriers have changed the way they do business and they will continue to evolve. Market share was one of the major goals with air carriers but today the focus is more on yield management and improving their flows throughout their system. Air carriers also will continue to look for opportunities to develop alliances to maximize their reach and improve their efficiencies.
Maine Trails: Is the job of manager different than it was 10 years ago?
Tony Caruso: Many years ago, the job of an airport manager was more of a facility manager. Today, a manager must be the facility manager but also the business manager. Airport managers must have a long-term vision and be very strategic in their planning efforts. Focus must be placed on ensuring the future viability of their airport. The airport manager today is involved with economic development, lease management, identifying revenue sources and real long-term growth initiatives.
Maine Trails: Fort Lauderdale is one of BIA’s top 10 destinations, as is Washington, D.C. What are some of the others? Why are these particularly good markets for Bangor flyers?
Tony Caruso: Bangor has a good mix of leisure and business travelers. Many of the top leisure destinations are in the Florida market, as well as in southwestern U.S. Many of our business travelers can travel to major markets with simply one connection or stop. Direct access to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Detroit have proven to be very popular. Several years ago, we marketed BGR as having good “connectivity.” This continues today. However, the real point to make is having access to other areas and this includes internationally.
Maine Trails: Do you see any other markets emerging?
Tony Caruso: Bangor continues to work with the existing air carriers serving our market to look for opportunities to upgrade equipment [aircraft], flight frequency or service to other destinations. We also continuously market to air carriers not currently serving our market on providing service to other destinations we have identified as being a need. Chicago and Charlotte are two examples of markets that will enhance access for BGR customers.
Maine Trails: Can you talk about BIA’s strategic plan going forward?
Tony Caruso: Generally Bangor has a strategic plan that involves strengthening our business niches, including our traditional revenue sources such as parking and concessionaires. We also look for opportunities to invest in our facility and infrastructure to prepare for future opportunities. Another part of our strategic plan is investing in our personnel. All of our strategic efforts will help better position BGR for the future.
Maine Trails: How would you characterize BGR’s relations with the city? With MaineDOT and FAA?
Tony Caruso: Bangor International Airport has an excellent relationship with the City of Bangor. We have very collaborative working relationships with key city personnel and work very closely with them on a number of projects. The same is true for our relationship with other government agencies. We have great working relationships with all involved!
Maine Trails: BGR’s passenger count has been growing recently. Why is that?
Tony Caruso: Passenger numbers have been increasing over the last few months, as compared to last year’s figures. However, some of these figures are still below the numbers from 2005, when we experienced very strong passenger demand. The recent figures are certainly very pleasing, but we remain “cautiously optimistic” as the fuel market remains unstable and air carriers are still reducing capacity throughout their systems. Recent figures show there is good demand in our market.
Maine Trails: Is there room for more growth at BGR? Where will that growth come from? Demographically? Geographically? Is there a point where you think it will top out?
Tony Caruso: Bangor is always looking for opportunities for development and growth. We continue to focus on improving our business niches to make sure we are positioned for future success.
Maine Trails: Do you have your own plane?
Tony Caruso: No, but I am a licensed private pilot and have been since 1986. I have always had a passion for flying and aviation. This is such a dynamic industry and provides many of us with opportunities to be involved with aspects or projects other industries would never provide.
Maine Trails: What’s it like to be in charge of an airport?
Tony Caruso: While I am still very new to this current position, being in charge of an airport is exciting. As a director of an airport you have an opportunity to be involved with items or development that have a direct impact on your city or region. Being able to work with the very talented, skilled and professional people here at BGR, the city and the region is an honor.
Maine Trails: How are discussions going on adding parking capacity?
Tony Caruso: Discussions are moving forward with developing an option to handle the peak demand for parking we experience between February and April. This is certainly a good problem to have, but we need to provide adequate parking for our customers during this period. BGR is developing a satellite parking lot option that will provide shuttle service to and from the terminal. This service will provide “door-to-door” service for our customers – service directly from their vehicle to the terminal.
Maine Trails: Are there other major infrastructure investments on the horizon for the airport?
Tony Caruso: BGR is currently undertaking a terminal upgrade project that will enhance the customer flow within the domestic terminal. This includes combining all airline operations to a central area, developing more passenger queuing space, upgrading lighting and the escalator and possibly a better positioned elevator. We are also working with TSA on developing an inline checked baggage system. This system will combine TSA resources to the airline area versus the current system that has separate and divided systems. This will improve efficiencies for both the TSA and airline operations.
Maine Trails: What do your kids think about your job?
Tony Caruso: I am the very proud dad of five-year-old twins. Vincent and Amelia tell all their friends that their father works at the airport and gets to see airplanes all day!
Connecting with the Caribou Connector
Bypass project wraps up after decades of planning and debate
The new $20 million, 3.8-mile-long, four-lane Caribou Connector, linking Route 161 and Route 1 south of Caribou, is now complete and open to vehicular, foot and bicycle traffic. The new stretch of highway that diverts heavy and commercial traffic away from the Caribou central business district was opened on August 17.
The Caribou Connector features several highway design innovations, including a “critter crossing” for wildlife, advanced drainage technology to meet environmental regulations and a “bridge-in-a-backpack” composite bridge technology developed at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. The project was constructed in two sections by two design-build teams led by Soderberg Construction Company and Sargent Corp. The Soderberg team built the one-mile section that included the composite bridge spanning a recreational trail. The Sargent team designed and built the 2.8 mile section of highway that runs west of Caribou city center and connects to Route 1, as well as with routes 89 and 161.
Before opening the route to cars and trucks, MaineDOT and the city’s parks and recreation department invited officials, roller skiers, skateboarders, scooter-riders, walkers, cyclists and others to try out the new road.
“We thought it would be a good idea before the road opens to vehicular traffic if people had the opportunity to go over it at a slower pace,” Kathy Mazzuchelli of Caribou Parks and Recreation told The Bangor Daily News. “This will give folks a chance to see some of the new technology used in the construction. . . These are things you might not see when you cross it at 50 miles per hour.”
The new road is an example of transportation engineering and construction at its best, according to those who spoke at the celebration.
“This is construction using new innovation,” Ken Murchison, Caribou’s mayor, said. “It is clear to me we have set the standard for excellence in terms of transportation construction right here in Caribou.”
Developed at UMaine to be used for short-to-medium length spans, the high tech “bridge in a backpack” replaces traditional concrete and steel construction with a lightweight, corrosion-resistant, portable carbon-fiber tube structure. It’s designed to double a bridge’s structural lifespan and significantly reduce construction time and repair costs, according to Emergency Management magazine.
The connector also represents a major improvement in highway safety by routing heavy trucks and other through-motorists around downtown Caribou and away from three “high-crash-danger” intersections, Bern-hardt said.
The first motorized vehicles to make the trip were 30 or so antique and vintage autos that travelled from Route 161 to Route 89 and back.
“This connector is important for the quality of life here and important for economic development and commerce,” said Bernhardt.
Funded jointly by the state and federal governments, the route was designed to minimize effects on existing downtown businesses and on agricultural operations. The Caribou Connector was recommended as part of a larger Aroostook County Transportation Study, that was the culmination of more than 30 years of public input and debate on transportation enhancements for Caribou and Presque Isle.
Work started on the road in 2010. Its route circumvents downtown Caribou and begins just south of the Caribou Country Club on Route 161. It heads east, passing over Route 1 and again over Route 89 and continues west until it connects with routes 1 and 89 south of Bennett Drive.
Entrance and exit ramps are in place leading to and from Route 1, locally called Van Buren Road.
Nova Scotia commits to Yarmouth-Portland ferry
The government of Nova Scotia plans to commit as much as $21 million to resume ferry service between Yarmouth and Portland. The $21 million will be spent over seven years and was recommended by a panel charged with evaluating the economic impact of ferry service between the two countries. The panel noted that the service is expected to operate at a loss for the first seven years before posting a modest profit.
A new 85-page report estimates as many as 130,000 passengers could be expected to enjoy leisurely, cruise-style ferry travel trip between the two countries, instead of the high-speed service that ended in 2009 when Bay Ferries Ltd. pulled the plug on its high-speed service, The Cat. Bay Ferries had been losing almost $7 million a year on that service – a cost that has been attributed to decreased ridership, the result of a higher Canadian dollar and high fuel costs.
Last spring, the Canadian panel of experts in tourism, ferries and business met to evaluate restarting the service. Premier Darrell Dexter told the Bangor Daily News his government had ruled out Boston and Bar Harbor and chosen to focus its support for ferry service to Portland, citing its appeal as “an increasingly attractive destination for visitors from Nova Scotia.” Dexter also called Portland “a growing cultural [and] business center of Northern New England.”
Because of the report, Dexter told the Portland Press Herald: “We now know that a ferry service could exist, with the right business model and the right partners,” and that the province would support a service that “could stand on its own, a service that could be successful and profitable.”
Dexter said a ferry operator would need to have a “sophisticated marketing strategy” and be capable of providing a high-quality cruise experience for passengers.
The Chronicle Herald has reported that the loss of ferry service – The Scotia Prince in 2005 and The Cat in 2009 – “sucked the oxygen out of southwestern Nova Scotia’s tourism industry.” According to that paper, the report provides “an autopsy of sorts” on what happened over the last decade to the ferry market, the economy, U.S. tourism and southwestern Nova Scotia’s room night occupancy.
In Maine, the loss also was felt. Barbara Whitten, president of the Greater Portland Convention & Visitors Bureau, told The Forecaster newspaper. She noted that the Greater Portland region’s tourism-related businesses was effected by the loss of service, including in the hotel trade.
“It was a positive thing for Portland, a positive thing for our hotels, a positive thing all around,” Whitten said.
It currently appears as if the only government funding for a new ferry service will be from the Canadian provincial government. John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority, told the Portland Press Herald he sees Nova Scotia’s investment as significant and “a real positive,” but he also expects a “lot of challenges,” and thinks it’s unlikely the state or the city will invest in the venture.
Meanwhile, the city of Portland has indicated it would offer the service other forms of assistance. “While we can’t provide millions of dollars in subsidies, we are able to negotiate favorable lease terms for the ferry,” said Nicole Clegg, city spokesperson. Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said the city would “do what we could to facilitate having ferry service return to Portland.” In its report, the panel says a cruise ferry would travel at 18 to 20 knots, with a one-way trip taking about 10 hours. The panel said the ferry would have to provide “a compelling passenger experience, not simply high-speed transportation from point A to B.” The panel estimates a leisurely trip to take about 10 hours.
FMI: To view a copy of the Yarmouth Ferry report, visit
Roads + Rail
Commissioner Bernhardt briefs MBTA on key projects in The County
Transportation is on the move in Aroostook County, and that appears to be having an effect on the local economy. That was one of the messages at the MBTA’s 2012 Aroostook County Meeting, August 2 at the Northeastland Hotel in Presque Isle.
The County has been the site of two of the state’s biggest transportation initiatives of late: the state’s $20.1 million purchase of 233 miles of rail line in 2011; and the construction of the $20 million Caribou Connector that opened on August 17. Featured speaker, MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt, talked about those two projects and more at the meeting that was attended by 65 MBTA members and friends.
MBTA President Doug Hermann of Wyman & Simpson greeted the crowd and introduced several notable guests, including Representative Ken Theriault (D-Madawaska) and Representative Alex Willette (R-Mapleton) and his wife Melissa. Theriault and Willette are on the Maine Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation, and Hermann was sure to recognize Willette for helping expedite travel and commerce in The County with one recent piece of legislation he sponsored.
“You can thank Representative Willette for putting in the bill that allowed you to drive 75 mph – legally – on the interstate on the way up here,” said Hermann.
Also attending were: Senator Roger Sherman (R-Houlton); Representative Bernard Ayotte (R-Caswell); Representative Joyce Fitzpatrick (R-Houlton); and Representative Peter Edgecomb (R-Caribou) and his wife Marjie.
Phil Bosse, from U.S. Senator Susan Collins’ Aroostook County office also attended, as did Jon McLaughlin, president of Leaders Encouraging Aroostook County (LEAD) and executive director of the Southern Aroostook Development Corporation; Bob Dorsey, of Aroostook Partners for Progress and who is also with LEAD; and Theresa Fowler, director of the Mid-Aroostook Chamber of Commerce in Presque Isle.
Hermann gave the crowd a quick update on recent MBTA activities and initiatives, including plans to campaign for passage of Question 4, the $51.5 million transportation bond referendum that is on the November ballot. He urged members to help spread the word about the bond that will match more than $100 million in federal transportation funds. He also spoke about the board’s decision to move ahead on an effort to build a coalition to promote increased long-term transportation funding.
“We are reviving some past efforts for a long-term funding campaign to get transportation better funded in Maine,” said Hermann.
“We know that the commissioner and his department do a great job with the very limited resources they have, but we need to put more money into the system so that we can do more highway reconstruction, fix more bridges, and get some economic development projects funded, like the Presque Isle Bypass. So we will be asking other groups to join us, and are hopeful that LEAD will assist us as they have in the past.”
Investments ‘benefit everyone’
Commissioner Bernhardt’s talk focused on his department’s recent efforts to advance transportation in Aroostook County, including the Aroostook County Transportation Study, the state’s purchase of the northern Maine rail line and other projects.
In regard to government investments in the rail line – the federal government issued $10.5 million in TIGER grant funding (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery) to upgrade the track – Bernhardt said that 60 percent of the upgrades have been completed. Additionally, Maine Northern Railroad, the new operator of the line, has made significant investments in equipment and personnel for the line. All of those public and private investments are paying off, according to Bernhardt, who told the MBTA audience that the traffic on the rail line had tripled from 100 carloads per week to a high of 300 carloads since the state purchased the line and Maine Northern took over.
“Irving has money to put into rail that we haven’t seen in the past. It benefits everyone,” said Bernhardt. Notably, the upgrades and improvements to the service have reduced freight times considerably. Bernhardt said it now takes just 36 hours for a freight car to move from Aroostook to Boston, down from several days. He said the goal is to increase track speeds to 25 miles per hour.
Now that the Caribou Connector is complete, Bernhardt outlined the next steps to advance work on the Presque Isle Connector. He said a route has been selected – Alternative No. 7 – and the regulatory process is well underway. The Army Corps of Engineers issued the LEDPA (Least Damaging Practicable Alternative) in late June. The Federal Highway Authority is expected to issue a record of decision within the coming months, completing the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process.The Presque Isle project will include construction of 9.8 miles of new highway, plus 2.3 miles of approach roads and will cost approximately $120 million. Only $22 million of that funding – including state funds and federal earmarks – has been identified to date.
The meeting concluded with the 50/50 Raffle drawing that raised $220. Stacy Caron of the Lane Construction Corporation was the evening’s winner. She took home the $110 prize; the remaining $110 goes to the MBTA Educational Foundation that awards scholarships to Maine students.
MBTA members raise $23,000 for Infrastructure Development Fund
MBTA members couldn’t have asked for better weather – or a better reason – to hit the links. The occasion was the 16th annual MBTA Infrastructure Development Golf Tournament, July 19 at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester.
The event was a sell-out, with 36 teams and 144 golfers heading out for a day under warm blue skies. It is a popular event in the MBTA annual calendar, a chance to take a break and catch up with friends and colleagues. It also is for a good cause. Founded in 1996, the golf tourney is one of the primary fundraisers for the MBTA Infrastructure Development Fund that supports the organization’s efforts to educate the public about the need to invest in the state’s transportation infrastructure. This year MBTA members raised more than $23,000 for the fund. Tournament Chair Tim Folster of Sargent Corp. offered those gathered at the post tournament reception a little history of the event, noting that the first annual tournament netted less than one-third of 2012’s tournament proceeds.
“This is our 16th golf tournament . . . our first couple of years we were at the Falmouth Country Club, and Earle Cianchette was the board member who was the force behind it,” said Folster. “Since then, many others have stepped up to be part of this effort, including many who are here today. We are pleased that the MBTA Infrastructure Development Fund– despite some turmoil in the stock market – has grown considerably. Currently our funds exceed $650,000 with a goal of $1.1 million. . . And this event is our biggest fundraiser toward that goal.”
Folster said the goal is to have the fund be self-sustaining, so MBTA can provide seed money for educational campaigns through the fund’s investment earnings.
The event is also a chance for members to show their competitive side, and a lucky few went home with prizes and the admiration of their friends and colleagues. This year the team from The Rowley Agency and Mattingly Products Company – Gary LaPierre, John Harbottle, Phil Mattingly and Randy Clark – took top honors with a low gross score of 58. Jon Whited of Whited Ford led his team to second place with a 61 score. Also playing with Whited were Joel Cummings of Auburn Concrete; Felex Lincoln; and Rick Shrep of Preferred Pump & Equipment.
The top women’s team included Sue Grondin, Bette Grondin and Bess Hey from R.J. Grondin & Sons and Joan Hall from George C. Hall & Sons. The top mixed team included Reggie and Ellen Pratt from Pratt & Sons and Dick and Rhonda Cousens.
The team from Old Castle Precast and T Buck Construction took top honors in the low net category with a score of 50.2. That foursome included Adam Foster and Ryan Maceachern from Old Castle; Alan Cobb from T Buck Construction; and Mike Redmond from MaineDOT. The second place low net team was the foursome from Chadwick-BaRoss, including Al Bridges, Brent Matchett, Dave Sickles and Jacob Adams. Their score was 56.6.
When it came to individual achievements, the tournament featured a new prize category – that of “Straightest Drive.” Bette Grondin and Varun Avasthi were the winners of that prize. Individual winners also included Skip Brown and Bob Bates for putting. Bill Grealish, Ryan Hazelton and Paul Pottle were the winners of the Casino Hole prize. Their names were from all who participated in the Casino Hole drawing by paying $5 and also landing on the green.
Joan Hall was the big winner of the day. Not only did she play on the winning women’s team, she also won the 50/50 drawing, taking home $565 dollars (an equal amount went to support the MBTA Educational Foundation).
- First Place / Low Gross (58 score) – Randy Clark, John Harbottle, Gary LaPierre, Phil Mattingly
- Second Place / Low Gross (61) – Joel Cummings, Felex Lincoln, Rick Shrep, Jon Whited
- First Place/ Low Net (50.2) – Alan Cobb, Adam Foster, Ryan Maceachern, Mike Redmond
- Second Place / Low Net (56.6) – Jacob Adams, Al Bridges, Brent Matchett, Dave Sickles
- Top Women’s - Sue Grondin; Bette Grondin; Bess Hey; Joan Hall
- Top Mixed – Reggie Pratt; Ellen Pratt; Dick Cousens; Rhonda Cousens
- Straightest Drive / Men – Varun Avasthi
- Straightest Drive / Women – Bette Grondin
- Closest to the pin – Joe Rollins
- Casino hole Drawing winners – Bill Grealish, Ryan Hazelton, Paul Pottle ($200 each)
- Putting contest – Bob Bates; Skip Brown ($75 L.L. Bean Gift Certificate)
- 50/50 Drawing – Joan Hall ($565 prize)
- Raffle – Bob Leland ($50 Home Depot Gift Card); Terry Buck ($25 Home Depot Gift Card)
Golf Committee & Volunteers
Chair: Tim Folster, Chair, Sargent Corp.
Committee: Tom Biegel, Shaw Brothers Construction; Greg Dore, Town of Skowhegan; Jim Hall, George C. Hall & Sons, Inc.; Jim Hanley, Pike Industries; John Harbottle, The Rowley Agency; Doug Hermann, Wyman & Simpson, Inc.; Larry Hutchins, Hudson Asphalt Group; Mike Marriner, Marriners Paving; Tom Martin, NITRAM Excavation & GC; John Paradis, Nortrax; Larry Roberts, The Louis Berger Group; Joe Rollins; and John Wardwell, The Lane Construction Corp.
Volunteers: Chris Bales, Greg Dore, Michelle Ibarquen, Don Lunn, Pam Rogers, Jim Letteney, Peter Piattoni, Brad Kaherl.
The Louis Berger Group, Inc.
The Rowley Agency, Inc.
Wyman and Simpson, Inc.
Lunch & Beverage Sponsors
Anderson Equipment Company
Fay, Spofford & Thorndike
T. Y. Lin International
Unique Paving Materials Corp.
Berkley Surety Group
Ted Berry Company, Inc.
H. O. Bouchard, Inc.
Ciment Quebec, Inc.
Concord Coach Lines
CONTECH Engineered Solutions LLC
Dearborn Brothers Construction, Inc.
Down East Emulsions, LLC
HP Fairfield, LLC
Grace Construction Products
R. J. Grondin & Sons, Inc.
A. H. Harris & Sons, Inc.
Jordan Equipment Co.
K & K Excavation
Macdonald Page & Co LLC
Maine Drilling & Blasting, Inc.
Bruce A. Manzer, Inc.
McGoldrick Bros. Blasting Services, Inc.
Pike Industries, Inc.
E. J. Prescott, Inc.
Shaw Brothers Construction, Inc.
Skillings Shaw & Associates
Whited Peterbilt of Maine
Willis of Northern New England
Jon and Dan Shaw have carved a construction empire out of rock and dirt
By Kathryn Buxton
Brothers Dan and Jon Shaw grew up on a farm in Gorham, not far from the 134-acre site on Mosher Road where the brothers’ company, Shaw Brothers Construction, opened the doors of its sprawling new headquarters in 2011.
The site is a one-stop shop for heavy construction. There’s a 48,500-square-foot, two-story, brick office building with an attached shop containing 10 bays for maintenance of the company’s fleet of heavy equipment, including six cranes; and separate shops for welding, washing and painting equipment. The site also includes a separate 25,000-square-foot warehouse. There’s also a 12-by-80-foot, 200-ton scale – one of the largest in New England – for weighing trucks and materials from the Shaw Brothers pit and materials processing plant at the site. There’s a dispatch area with a big-screen TV for monitoring job sites; storage for 65,000 gallons of diesel and gasoline – for the company’s fleet of trucks and heavy equipment; an industrial generator capable of powering the facility through an ice storm, nor’easter or hurricane; three kitchens, a lunchroom and a workout room for employees. The entire complex is heated with waste fuel oil, with a natural gas backup system.
Then there’s the boardroom outfitted with a massive conference table – possibly one of the largest in greater Portland. “We haven’t really used it that much,” confessed Jon Shaw. It is obvious the Shaws aren’t much for sitting around and talking. They are much more comfortable on the move, starting their days early and working hard to oversee the construction empire they began in 1977 with what their web site describes as “two brothers, two employees, a backhoe and a handshake.”
It is obvious from the moment you walk in the door, that the Shaw brothers have big plans for the future of their company. While some may marvel at the company’s impressive new headquarters, the decision to invest in one location where they could consolidate operations that had been spread across several towns, has already proven its worth. The new space has improved organization and efficiency and three shifts, needed at the old plant to “keep equipment maintained,” said Dan, have been reduced to one. The old space was sold to J.P. Noonan, a Massachusetts-based transportation company.
Tom Ellsworth, director of Gorham Economic Development Corp., called the headquarters a “spectacular facility . . . an incredible project for the town.”
Everything about the new building means efficiency. The halls connecting the various departments are wide enough to drive a forklift or loader through, and everything is spotless and well-organized, from the polished concrete floors to the catalogued inventory of equipment parts adjoining the shop where staff maintain the company’s large fleet of heavy equipment to the heating plant that is fueled with waste oil.
“When Caterpillar was building their new regional headquarters in New York, they came for a tour,” said Jon.
More muscle, less equipment
The Shaw Brothers story is one of family, hard work and smart planning. The brothers grew up in a large farm family – in all there were nine Shaw siblings – and were comfortable working with heavy equipment. The Shaws raised dairy cows and planted acres of potatoes and sugar beets. Their father – Dewayn – also started a business building homes.
“Our father did a lot,” said Dan Shaw, explaining how he and his brother learned their strong work ethic. For the young Shaw brothers, the decision to start a construction business came naturally, as well. “There was always a lot of heavy equipment around the farm.”
They started young. The year was 1977, and Dan had just graduated from Gorham high school (Jon had graduated two years earlier). They began with two employees.
Their earliest jobs required considerably more muscle than equipment, because good labor was more affordable than new equipment. Shaw Brothers made its name at first by the brothers pitching customers with the promise that they would do all the site work for a house, from digging the foundations to pouring the concrete to putting in the drains, floors and waterproofing.
“We had to be pretty aggressive to get those first jobs,” recalled Jon. “We used to call it ‘A Package Deal and Guaranteed Dry Cellar.’”
“It took us a long time to get a good customer base,” remembered Dan. “We did hundreds and hundreds of homes. We didn’t have a lot of big equipment. Not like today.”
“We’d do anything that we could,” said Jon.
“We’d put in brick sidewalks for towns, anything that was heavy on the labor,” he recalled. “Today, it’s just the opposite.”
Their business grew in scale when they started taking on projects with municipalities and the utility companies. Still, the work remained labor intensive. By the 1980s, their workforce had grown to nearly 180. Comparatively, they employ about 175 today, though their billings are much higher and jobs are much bigger.
They had timed their entry into the business well, and over the years they have specialized in almost every type of heavy construction imaginable. During the early and mid-1980s, Shaw Brothers installed concrete encased conduits for New England Telephone and underground power lines for CMP. They also served as subcontractors for other construction firms. In the mid-1980s, the housing market began to boom and for several years, the company did site work on many of the condominium projects that sprung up in the region. When a recession hit in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Shaw Brothers crews took on more municipal and transportation work, including work on landfills and environmental remediation projects. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, they worked on several “big box” commercial developments in southern Maine.
As Dan described it, they got into the habit of always looking at where the market was headed, and made sure they had the right equipment and know-how to win the next job.
“It’s always about the next job,” said Dan talking about how they grew from just two employees to today’s 175 workers. “We’re always looking ahead to where our next job is going to be.”
Dan also credits their staff for always being there, with the right know-how at the right time. “It’s our people,” said Dan. “They make the difference.”
During the late 1980s, the Shaws purchased their first pit. They wanted to have a reliable source of gravel and other materials for their construction jobs. In fact, over the years, they have collected pits like some people collect baseball cards. Currently, Shaw Brothers owns more than a dozen pits and quarries at locations throughout the region, including the one behind their new offices, the site of a former brickyard. In 2007, Shaw Brothers bought Commercial Paving to test the paving market. They also applied for and received permits to operate an asphalt plant at the new Brickyard site in Gorham. This major expansion into paving was delayed due to the downturn in the economy and the attention needed for the construction of the headquarters, but it may be the next expansion in the future.
Dan is proud to point out that those pits are the company’s long-term strategy for success – ensuring they have the aggregates they need when their customers need them. Having multiple sites also allows them to keep their transportation costs low – and that keeps them competitive when they go out to bid.
“Do you know the rule for success with aggregates?” said Dan, who estimates that Shaw Brothers has enough aggregates to see the company through the next 125 years. “Location, location, location.”
Jon is quick to note that even though they like the big jobs, they are not ones to turn a smaller job away. If someone calls and needs some fill, they will figure out how to fit the delivery into the schedule. They also have developed a reputation for helping cities and towns out in a pinch – say when a water main breaks or a flash flood washes out a road. (On the day before this interview, a Shaw Brothers crew was in Westbrook into the night, helping to repair a broken city water line.)
Shaw Brothers, with its supersized generator that can keep company crews working through all kinds of weather and conditions, also has been designated as an emergency response system for the state.
Shaw Brothers is involved in the professional community. The company is a long-time member of the MBTA, Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine, the Maine Aggregate Association, Maine Asphalt Pavement Association and AGC Maine. Longtime employee Mark Barnes is a past president of MBTA, along with former employee Darren Shiers. Currently Tom Biegel is on the MBTA board of directors. Jon, Dan and their employees have been known to help out in the community, too. Dan and Jon are big supporters of Camp Sunshine in Casco, one of the only camps in the country for families with seriously ill children. They support the ALS Association, Children’s Miracle Network, Maine Handicapped Skiing Program, the Susan Curtis Foundation, Neighbors Helping Neighbors Heating Assistance Program, the Boy Scouts of America Pine Tree Council, the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, as well as many baseball, softball and other sports teams in the local communities. The Shaws purchased and restored an old fire engine and loan it out for parades and charity fundraising events.
They also support the town of Gorham and Gorham Parks and Recreation. In 2005, Shaw Brothers gave Shaw Park to Gorham Parks and Recreation, a nine-acre park with a baseball diamond and dugouts, concession stands, multipurpose field, boat launch and beachfront on the Presumpscot River.
As always, Jon and Dan are keeping one eye to the future trying to anticipate where the next job will come from and what the next big market for heavy construction will be. Commercial and residential construction still has not recovered from the economic downturn that hit Maine and the country in 2008. Most recently, the company has been busy working on the power grid update for Central Maine Power, as well as several sewer, water and transportation projects.
Like everyone else in the industry, they have been impacted by the recession. They survived by keeping their workforce lean, and were able to put several of their staff, who might have otherwise been laid off, to work constructing the new headquarters in 2010-2011.
“We couldn’t have done that this year,” said Jon.
The Shaws expect the construction market to continue its slow recovery and that work in utilities and transportation will continue to be one of the region’s steadiest markets for a while. “People will always need water, sewer and roads,” said Jon.
At a glance: Shaw Brothers Construction
About: Founded in 1977, Shaw Brothers is one of Southern Maine’s largest earthwork contractors, with 175 employees and hundreds of pieces of equipment. The company owns more than a dozen active pits and quarries in southern Maine, totaling more than 1,350 acres of DEP-permitted resources.
Contact: 341 Mosher Rd, Gorham, Maine 04038; 207-839-2552; fax 207-839-6239; firstname.lastname@example.org
From Point A to Point B and in between
By David Bernhardt, P.E., MaineDOT Commissioner
The traditional New Englander phrase – “you can’t get there from here” – has rung a bit too true when looking at the proposed East-West Highway. The Maine Legislature tasked MaineDOT with studying the financial feasibility of the proposed East-West Highway. LD 1671: An Act To Provide Funding to the Department of Transportation for a Feasibility Study of an East-west Highway, as enacted (Resolve 2011, Chapter 147), requires MaineDOT to complete an investment-grade traffic and revenue analysis to assess the feasibility of a privately funded, privately operated and publicly accessible east-west highway, and to report back the findings to the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation by January 15, 2013. Essentially, that means it is our job to fairly and objectively answer the question – “Is this highway financially feasible as a private toll highway?”
Both Governor LePage and the legislature wanted us to do this. Most of the studies we conduct do not have specific legislative direction, and it is not legally necessary, but we were happy to have it, given the magnitude and public interest in this project.
From the perspective of a transportation professional, studying whether a project is financially feasible first makes sense. We have seen the alternative in Wiscasset. We spent years considering multiple routes, causing immeasurable anxiety for communities and property owners. In the end, lack of funding doomed the project. Had the lack of funding been known from the beginning of the process, much time, energy, worry and taxpayer dollars would have been saved.
As an investment-grade traffic and revenue analysis, this study will not determine precisely where the road would be or what its design will be. Although it is understandable why people want to know all that now, those are questions for much later, and are more appropriately asked of the potential developer. Many are uncomfortable with the concept of a private road. Doing things differently always raises questions, but I can tell you that we need to try new approaches to transportation finance. Traditional state and federal funding alone simply will not get the job done. We need to be open to other possibilities.
To complete this study, we obviously need to know what businesses and people would likely use it, and what they would be willing to pay. For us to know who to ask these questions, we obviously need to know the connections between the new road and existing public transportation infrastructure in Maine and in Canada. As we proceeded, we learned that we need better information about these connections. Without it, the study results would not be useful.
The study is essentially on hold until more reliable information regarding the connection is provided. We will continue with the study once these connections are more fully determined. That could be months or longer. In the meantime, we know debate among policymakers will continue, and we stand willing to do whatever job is asked of us.