It’s about education.Scholarships, educating the public and the need for long-term transportation funding. By Randy Mace.
Future faces of transportation. MBTA’s 2011-12 scholarship winners are a promising group. Meet them. By Kathryn Buxton.
10 for ’11.The Top 10 transportation stories for 2011. By Rick Ackermann.
What’s on their minds.Talking about transportation with Representatives Ann Peoples and Charles “Ken” Theriault. By Maria Fuentes.
Turnpike, MaineDOT outline 2012 capital plans.Agencies plan to spend $43 million and $228 million respectively.
The $1 billion question. Addressing the funding question at PACTS briefing.
Acting up. Maine conference highlights need for transportation activism.
Future thinking. UMaine President Ferguson on the need for education and innovation.
The many lives of Don Raye. The former MBTA president and Transportation Achievement winner takes it outdoors. By Kathryn Buxton.
MaineDOT View: Balancing budget, priorities and customer service levels. By David Bernhardt, P.E., MaineDOT Commissioner.
It’s about education, stupid
Educating colleagues, neighbors and family about the transportation funding crisis
By Randy Mace, MBTA President
The theme of this issue of Maine Trails is education. You can’t get ahead without education, something MBTA members, as a well-informed group of citizens, community leaders and business people, know all too well.
This issue doesn’t just focus on the up-and-comers – though there is an introduction to the 17 accomplished students who have recently received MBTA scholarships. We also recognize how important it is to continue to learn from our colleagues even after we leave school. As famed physicist Albert Einstein once said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” The 61st Maine Transportation Conference was a good example of just how important it is to learn every day of our lives. The day-long event held in December was attended by more than 500 municipal and business leaders. Throughout the day, these community and business leaders tackled the tough issues of transportation: stretching a maintenance dollar; delving into state and local funding gaps; engaging the public; advancing environmental management trends; and putting new technologies to work.
To borrow a less lofty phrase from recent history – “It’s about education, stupid.” And that was at the heart of the keynote address by U.S. Chamber of Commerce transportation policy guru Janet Kavinoky. She gave a play-by-play of the battle underway in Washington, D.C. over the long-term federal transportation authorization. She also talked about how important public education and engagement were to moving key transportation issues forward.
Conference presentations also included a session led by Jack Basso, AASHTO director of program finance and management, on inroads some states have made in raising revenues in an anti-tax climate. George Campbell, Jr., who recently left his post as New Hampshire Department of Transportation Commissioner and also served as Maine Commissioner of Transportation, echoed the philosopher George Santayana who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Campbell talked about the importance of citizens letting their lawmakers know that “infrastructure deficits” do matter. And that those who choose not to “remember” are guilty of neglect and the subsequent cost to society in increased maintenance costs, lost business opportunity and lost productivity.
In fact, during the 61 years that the Maine Transportation Conference has been held, it has been synonymous with education, and that is why MBTA continues to be a major sponsor of the event, along with MaineDOT and Maine Chapter, ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers).
MBTA also believes in addressing the issues at our regional meetings, and our most recent meeting in Bangor was all about education. Our guest speaker was UMaine President Dr. Paul W. Ferguson, and he talked about how important education was going to be for the future of the university – and the state. He mentioned the university’s efforts to attract the best students and critical research dollars, and how education and research play a vital role in the economy. One of my favorite moments was when he asked for a show of hands by all the UMaine graduates in the room. It was impressive to see just how many of our colleagues at MBTA began their professional careers with a UMaine education.
Now, as the Maine Legislature and U.S. Congress gear up for 2012 and get ready to address issues such as a Maine infrastructure bond and federal transportation legislation, I hope you will be with me on the front lines of MBTA’s education efforts. We need to get our families, friends, colleagues and neighbors involved in the debate. We need to raise the tough question: what will happen if we don’t find ways to fix our roads and make our transportation system safer and more efficient?
This won’t be easy. There are a lot of competing interests and market forces that will challenge our efforts. But the truth is, our economy will never get better unless we make better transportation a priority. So I hope I will be able to call on you to help educate the folks you work, socialize and live with every day on just how critical this issue is.
In closing, I would like to say thank you to everyone who volunteered their time and resources for MBTA during 2011. We accomplished many things last year with your help. We grew our infrastructure and scholarship funds and advocated in Augusta and Washington, D.C. You supported our events – our regional and annual meetings, the Infrastructure Golf Tournament, our convention and more. You spoke out with your local and state legislators.
While it is amazing to see how much we are able to accomplish when 700 transportation leaders put their minds to the task of educating the public and our legislators, we must also remember, in many ways, that work has only begun.
I look forward to working with you again in 2012.
Future faces of transportation
The MBTA Educational Foundation awards $17,500 in scholarships to 14 Maine students who are already carving out impressive careers in transportation
In difficult economic times, a scholarship can make a big difference in the life of a young person. For the 14 students who have been awarded MBTA scholarships in 2011, the grants will bring each of them closer to achieving their dreams, whether it is opening their own heavy equipment service center or building the bridges of the future.
In fact, every one of this year’s scholarship winners already has demonstrated a strong commitment to not only their academic studies, but to understanding the role transportation plays in their local economies and in Maine’s quality of life. Case in point are the three Transportation Trailblazer scholarship winners – Joseph Birckhead, Ian Messier and Benjamin Myers. Through the application process, the MBTA Educational Foundation identifies students who have demonstrated a strong interest in the industry and show promise as future advocates for Maine’s transportation community. All three, despite their young age, already have considerable on-the-job/on-the-road experience working for construction firms and MaineDOT. This is the second year that Birckhead has received the sustaining scholarship, while Messier and Myers are first-time recipients.
“We established this scholarship in 2009 to foster the best and the brightest, and it was very gratifying to see the quality of applicants,” said Thomas L. Gorrill, chair of the MBTA Educational Foundation. “Joe, Ian and Ben are excellent examples of the talent that is out there.”
The 2011 crop of scholarship winners also includes several non-traditional students. Nicholas Hartley, who received the 2011 Kenneth W. Burrill Scholarship, is undertaking the daunting task of earning a double major – engineering and construction management – at UMaine while working full time. Nick is also a whiz at Spanish. The scholarship is given in memory of Ken Burrill, a former MBTA president and Transportation Achievement Award recipient (1999) who had a long and distinguished career in transportation and construction and a penchant for fundraising for transportation issues.
Edward James Fitzpatrick, a Marine Corps veteran who served a four-year tour of duty, returned home to Aroostook County where he has enrolled at Northern Maine Community College. He is studying diesel hydraulics and plans to use those skills to continue work in construction, as well as in agriculture, a business his family has been in for years.
The MBTA began offering scholarships decades ago, but the association took it up a notch in the early 1980s. In 2000, the MBTA formalized its commitment to education by forming a separate organization – the MBTA Educational Foundation. The foundation, which has a separate board, has enabled the organization to better focus on planning for and management of scholarship funds. It also provides the opportunity for MBTA members and friends to make tax-deductible donations to the foundation. The fund has grown from $4,500 in 1990 to more than $340,000 today, thanks to the generosity of MBTA members. The major fundraiser for the foundation is the annual Super Raffle, but members also make other donations.
Education and leadership have been closely entwined with the MBTA’s mission from its early days when the organization was known as the Maine Good Roads Association, according to Gorrill.
“In more than 70 years, the MBTA has seen its share of industry leaders rise through our ranks – people who have made a profound and positive impact on our state,” said Gorrill. “Our hope is to nurture the industry’s leaders of tomorrow by encouraging students to pursue transportation studies today.”
This is the second year that Joseph Birckhead of Ellsworth has been selected to receive one of MBTA’s most prestigious scholarships – the Transportation Trailblazer. He is only the second recipient of the sustaining scholarship since it was established in 2009. Before enrolling in the UMaine’s construction management technology program, Joseph earned an associate’s degree in civil engineering from Eastern Maine Community College. Currently he is a senior at UMaine and expects to graduate in 2012. He wrote in his application:
“I have always loved construction and working with the earth.” He has worked in construction for several years, as a laborer, a layout foreman, an equipment operator and a truck driver for R.F. Jordan and Sons in Ellsworth and K.J. Dugas Construction in Surry. Joseph has maintained an impressive grade point average of 3.821 since he began at UMaine. He hopes to work for a large construction company after graduation.
A junior in UMaine’s construction management technology program, Ian Messier first knew that he wanted to work in construction when he discovered his grandfather’s surveying tools in the basement of the family home. The Topsham resident wrote in his application: “The one thing I truly love about the construction industry is that no matter what position you may be working at, you need to be a problem solver.” During summers, he has worked as a site layout intern/laborer for Harry C. Crooker & Sons in Brunswick and A.H. Grover, Inc. in North Yarmouth. After five semesters at UMaine, his cumulative grade point average is 3.344, and he has been on the dean’s list for two semesters. He participated in the 2011 Associated Schools of Construction Region 1 Bid Competition and is president of Associated General Contractors, Student Chapter. He also volunteered to help build the Born Learning Trail at the Herbert Sargent Community Center in Old Town.
Benjamin Myers is a junior at UMaine where he is pursuing two degrees: one in construction management technology, and a second in civil engineering. Already, he has considerable experience working on highway and bridge projects for the MaineDOT during summer break. He has been a bridge maintenance worker and a transportation aide worker. He also worked on a paving project on Route 2 in Pittsfield and on Veteran’s Remembrance Bridge in Bangor. He wrote: “My goal is to work with the state when I graduate as an engineer for the bridge program, if possible. I have long taken an interest in bridges as they are a key part of Maine’s transportation system.” Benjamin is a member of the Black Bear Chapter of the Associated General Contractors where he has helped on several community construction projects. He is a 2007 graduate of Noble High School in North Berwick.
Kenneth W. Burrill Scholar
When it comes to academics, UMaine junior Nicholas Hartley has a knack for Spanish, science, technology and math that he has generously shared with his fellow UMaine students as a tutor. The 2005 Hermon High School graduate has worked hard to earn his way through school, and is now in his third year enrolled in the UMaine engineering school. He also is a born leader, and when he was just 17, he was singled out for management training at Bega, Inc., operator of six McDonald franchises in the greater Bangor region. In addition to working for Bega throughout his college career, Nicholas also has interned for two summers on a MaineDOT maintenance crew, testing soils and aggregate materials on several bridge and highway projects. Nicholas is proficient in Spanish and is APNA Nuclear Safety and HAZMAT certified.
Paris W. Snow Scholars
Edward James Fitzpatrick grew up around trucks and tractors, working in his family’s potato farming business. After he graduated high school, he served for four years in the Marine Corps, where one of his duties was driving a truck. In his application he wrote that trucks have been a consistent theme in his career: “Through my life time, I have held various jobs driving trucks and other equipment for construction jobs for companies like Lane Construction and Steelstone Industries.” He has driven trucks and operated a variety of equipment, including a five-ton crane for Louisiana Pacific. He currently is studying for a degree in diesel hydraulics from Northern Maine Community College and intends to stay in Maine working in the transportation and agriculture industries. “My goal is to specialize in rebuilding and repairing trucks and heavy equipment.”
Ryan Scott plans to own a business in northern Maine one day.
The 2010 graduate of Fort Kent High School is in his second year at Northern Maine Community College where he is working toward a degree in diesel hydraulics. He first became interested in trucks during his sophomore year in high school, and he has worked for a Fort Kent garage where he services and repairs logging trucks and trailers. In his application he wrote: “I thought it was important to learn the latest technology . . . if I wanted to pursue this as a career.”
After graduation, he hopes to gain more experience in the business, working for a dealership or repair shop and is considering purchasing his own truck and becoming an owner-operator. After two semesters, Ryan has a cumulative grade point average of 2.64.
Millard W. Pray Scholarships
Now, entering her sophomore year in college, Jacqueline has an appreciation for the importance of a “strong transportation infrastructure in Maine…for communicating, trading and business.” Jacqueline is attending Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, where she is pursuing a degree in business. This is the second year she has received the Millard W. Pray Scholarship. Upon graduation, she hopes to put her expertise to work toward improving transportation, whether it is working for a road construction company or supporting legislation to improve transportation infrastructure. She has worked several summers for CPM Constructors in Freeport and, in winters, as a ski instructor at Sugarloaf USA. She is a graduate of Falmouth High School in Falmouth where she earned a 95.3 grade point average.
Amber is a fourth-year civil engineering student at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, and a graduate of Erskine Academy in South China. This is the third year she has received the Millard Pray W. Scholarship.
She sees transportation as an industry that is constantly changing and wants to be part of that change. She is particularly interested in exploring energy efficiency and structural engineering. Amber is active in the Norwich Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers. Last year she wrote, “With this experience and education I am receiving at Norwich University, I hope to be able to contribute to our nation’s infrastructure and the development of new technology.”
Lucius Barrows Scholars
Caleb Frederick graduated with high honors from Sanford High School. He is currently in his senior year at UMaine in the civil engineering program. His cumulative grade point average is 3.49. Now in his fourth year, he is focusing on transportation and this fall enrolled in the college’s Transportation Safety class. For the past two years, Caleb has worked summers at the AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center and continued that work part-time while school has been in session. In his application, he wrote: My grades show I am a committed student who strives to complete my work. . . Any help that can be provided through scholarships will help me continue with my education and goals in the field of civil engineering.” In his free time, Caleb enjoys playing guitar, mountain biking and skiing. He is president of the school’s Maine Outing Club.
Katrina Martin, a junior enrolled in the UMaine civil engineering program, is an accomplished scholar who has won many high school and college academic honors. She was her high school class valedictorian and was inducted in the National Honor Society at Easton High School in Easton. At UMaine, she was named Top Scholar (2009-2010) and has earned several other awards. Her cumulative grade point average is 3.459. She took her first transportation course – Transportation Engineering – last year and liked it. She is continuing transportation-related studies. She also is an officer of the school’s American Society of Civil Engineers chapter and treasurer of the Society of Women Engineers student chapter. She has participated in UMaine Cheerleading and on the school’s ultimate Frisbee team. Katrina enjoys hiking, riding her bike and reading in her spare time.
A senior in UMaine’s civil engineering program, Christopher Parent is a Maine native who graduated from Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine. He is an Eagle Scout, a National Collegiate Scholar and winner of the UMaine Presidential Scholars Award. He has a grade point average of 3.46. At UMaine, Christopher has focused on environmental, transportation and geotechnical engineering. This fall he took the Advanced Roadway Design course and plans on taking another transportation course during the spring semester. While he has worked throughout college to help pay for his education, the MBTA scholarship has been very important to him as his family has experienced financial hardships recently. He is a dean’s list student and a member of the Honors College. Last summer, he interned at the Old Town Water District, using GPS to map the district’s utilities. In his free time, Chris likes to play golf, work with computers and cheer on his favorite New England sports teams.
MBTA/ASCE Maine Transportation Conference Scholarships
When he was 13, Greg Dexter took a job working for his dad at the family hardware store near his hometown of Strong, Maine. “We were taught from a young age to be self-sufficient, hard workers, and I believe this was an important life lesson.” Through hard work, he was able to buy his first car, paying for it five dollars at a time, all the while saving money for college. In addition to working, Greg earned high honors throughout high school and was captain of his high school soccer and baseball teams. Currently in his junior year at UMaine in the construction management technology program, he describes himself as “passionate about things being designed well, done well and done efficiently.” He aspires to attaining a job as a field engineer and hopes one day to work building roads, airports and railways. He has a 3.4 grade point average, and hopes to secure a construction internship this coming summer. His hobbies and interests include paintballing, fishing and target shooting.
Peter Poor graduated from Telstar High School in 2004 and attended college for a short time before leaving school for work. That time off was well-spent, as Peter worked and made decisions about his future. He returned to school with a firm goal and has maintained a 4.0 grade point average since he enrolled as a non-traditional student in UMaine’s construction technology management program. Peter grew up around construction, tagging along with his dad to job sites as a young kid. “I started working in construction as soon as I legally could, beginning in high school. In the last decade, I have immersed myself in many different manners of construction: from landscaping and earthwork to carpentry and concrete.” He hopes to pursue a career in transportation construction because “with so much attention revolving around boosting the nation’s transportation infrastructure systems and the potential work this will generate, I could not imagine focusing my career in another area.”
Erik Bodwell likes to be out in the field. He also has an affinity for technology, and throughout high school he “took every opportunity available” to take technology education courses – drafting, architecture, woodwork and metal fabrication. That’s why, after exploring a career in engineering and surveying technology, he chose to major in construction management at UMaine. Now in his third year, the Brunswick native has made the dean’s list for three of the four semesters he has been enrolled in the program and has an impressive cumulative grade point average of 3.44. Even though he has one more year to complete, he already has amassed considerable experience in the field, working the past two summers for a residential contractor building houses, landscaping, installing septic systems and on road construction projects. He is hoping to land an internship with a large construction firm that will focus on road building. Erik writes: “After school, I plan to continue working in the transportation industry.” In his free time, he likes to be outside working on his vehicles.
A gift to the MBTA Educational Foundation helps ensure the transportation field will continue to grow, innovate and flourish in the decades to come. The scholarships the MBTA awards fulfill a vital part of our mission. By encouraging students to pursue careers in transportation, we are promoting safe, efficient transportation now – and for future generations.
There are many ways to give. Gifts of cash and securities are welcome. Members and friends may also designate contributions through a will or trust.
An individual, group or business may elect to honor an associate’s professional contributions through a named scholarship. Examples of named scholarships include the Millard W. Pray Scholarship and the Kenneth W. Burrill Scholarship.
Create a legacy
The MBTA Educational Foundation provides MBTA members and friends the opportunity to create a lasting legacy by promoting education and providing financial support for talented students choosing careers in transportation.
The foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization, and donations are tax-exempt. Members support scholarships by participating in the MBTA’s annual Super Raffle, the foundation’s primary fundraiser, and at the annual Fall Raffle, though individual donations are gratefully accepted at any time.
For more information about making a gift to the MBTA Educational Foundation, please contact Maria Fuentes, 207-622-0526.
10 for 2011
A look back at the year’s top stories in transportation
By Rick Ackermann
No. 1: Kicking the can down the road to Maine’s future?
The first session of the 125th Maine Legislature closed with a hard-won two-thirds majority on the General Fund and Highway Fund budgets. In the process, the Highway Fund budget took a significant hit in long-term capital investments over the next two years.
Senator Ronald F. Collins (R-York County), co-chair of the legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation, voiced his disappointment that several measures to boost transportation funding did not come to pass, including a $20 million infusion from the General Fund slated in Governor Paul LePage’s original budget and a measure to reduce Highway Fund payments for Maine State Police operations to a constitutionally appropriate level.
“Quite honestly, it comes down to priorities,” Senator Collins told Maine Trails. “We tried to stress the importance of maintaining our roads and bridge infrastructure, but creating that sense of urgency was difficult.”
Some legislators, including President of the Senate Kevin Raye (R-Perry), Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins (D-York County) and House Minority Leader Emily Cain (D-Orono), said they planned to push for an infrastructure bond in the coming session. MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt acknowledged a significant drop in biennial funding, and said that it was important to focus on the number of miles being improved.
The budget stretching strategy has required a shift from longer-term capital investments to shorter-term expenditures including light capital paving, known to many as “skinny mix” paving. This year, MaineDOT completed more than 600 miles of light capital paving. The department has, however, benefitted from the recession, which has hit contractors hard, and many bids coming in below budget.
While he credited MaineDOT for adeptly managing the resources it has within its tightly constrained budget, MBTA President Randy Mace said he was worried Maine was “just kicking the can down the road. We have dire transportation needs and every year we delay, those problems are growing.”
No. 2: Augusta retools
Last January, newly elected Governor Paul LePage announced his nomination for Maine Department of Transportation commissioner: David Bernhardt, P.E., a 27-year MaineDOT veteran who most recently had served as director of engineering and operations. In that role, LePage said, Bernhardt had been able to bring about major cost cutting changes within the department, including the consolidation of maintenance facilities and collaboration with New Hampshire to save on road paint, culverts and more. All told, those efforts brought about an annual savings estimated at $10 million.
To be sure, cost cutting has been a central theme in Bernhardt’s first year as commissioner. Said Bernhardt earlier this year: “We’ve looked at certain parts of the department, but I think if we look at everything in the administration, look at planning, design and construction and maintenance and, even, the operations of our systems, I think there are a lot of opportunities there.”
In other news, the 13-member Joint Standing Committee on Transportation took on two new Republican co-chairs: Senator Ronald F. Collins (R-York County) and Representative Richard M. Cebra (R-Naples). With little to no legislative interest in raising revenues (in fact, legislators suspended fuel tax indexing, resulting in a drop in revenues) and a general uneasiness over bonding, the Transportation Committee really had its hands tied during the first session of the 125th Maine Legislature. The MBTA was particularly interested in the progress of two bills: one addressed cost sharing between the General Fund and Highway Fund on the Maine State Ferry Service and the Maine State Police; the other sought to allocate 20 percent of transportation-related sales tax revenues to the transportation-related expenses of the state. While the first bill failed, the second one, L.D. 52, was carried over to this year’s legislative session. There was disappointment, too. Despite promises of General Fund support for roads from the new governor, funding failed to materialize.
In the plus column, legislators voted to allocate the remaining 50 percent of sales tax collected on rental car fees to the STAR Account for aviation, rail, transit, and other non-highway modes. Beginning in FY 12-13, this will bring an additional $3.1 million per year. About $1 million will go to the Small Harbor Improvement Program (SHIP); another $1 million will go to the Industrial Rail Access Program (IRAP); $930,000 will be used for transit investments; and $930,000 will go to Maine’s regional airports. And the Appropriations Committee agreed to allocate 20 percent of proceeds from the future sales of the state liquor contract to the Highway Fund. Some estimates suggest that slice could be up to $7 million per year, to be targeted for pavement preservation and rehabilitation. The funding will not be available until 2014.
No. 3: The Maine Turnpike retools
A comprehensive review of Maine Turnpike Authority spending and operations by the Maine Legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Accountability brought about major changes at that agency. Former state senator Peter Mills was called in to be acting executive director and help turn around the agency that had been roundly criticized for questionable expenditures and the need for greater transparency.
As part of the change, the turnpike’s board of directors also gained two new members: former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Daniel E. Wathen of Augusta took the reins as the board’s new chair; Robert D. Stone, a banker from Auburn, also was appointed to the board by Governor LePage.
Last May, Mills offered a look at what was ahead for the 109-mile toll highway. He jokingly suggested the turnpike in recent months had faced “nine times as much controversy as MaineDOT with just one-ninth the highway.” Mills also spoke about L.D. 1538, legislation that creates greater transparency in how the agency operates. That bill passed in the legislature in early June and Governor LePage signed it into law shortly after.
Mills has also addressed concerns about proposed legislation supported by Maine Treasurer Bruce Poliquin that would require agencies including the MTA, Maine State Housing Authority and the Finance Authority of Maine to send bonds out to public vote. “This is not a bill that should see the light of day,” said Mills.
Mills has talked about the future of tolling in Maine at a time when a few legislators and organizations have been pushing to divert toll revenues for other projects, from buses to bridges.
Mills has urged caution in protecting the funding sources for the highway that carries 85 percent of all commercial traffic in the state and said we should not divert tolls to other projects just because “we don’t have the courage to raise the gas tax.”
No 4: Two [years] is such an easy number
The U.S. Congress inched toward a meaningful debate on a transportation funding reauthorization, making some progress during the final months of 2011. In November, the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee approved a two-year transportation reauthorization that aims to keep funding at current levels with allowances for inflation.
The bill, titled “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century,” was a major effort to address the long-term transportation funding impasse that has existed since the previous authorization, SAFETEA-LU, expired more than two years ago. In the meantime, Congress has funded highways and transit through a series of short-term extensions. The stop-gap approach to funding has made states wary about taking on long-term maintenance and planning – particularly as Highway Trust Fund revenues have fallen short.
Congress may opt for a two-year reauthorization – versus the typical six-year funding cycle – because it would enable members to put off the really difficult decisions about cutting programs or identifying new funding for the financially strapped Highway Trust Fund.
The “Moving Ahead” legislation includes a $12 billion infusion to the federal Highway Trust Fund to help cover that gap short-term, but had not yet identified where that funding would come from. Finding the offsets to cover that $12 million may be difficult, as the so-called “Super Committee” a few days later failed to come to consensus on trimming $1.2 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade.
Stay tuned. As of press time, there appeared to be a debate brewing between the two-year Senate version of the re-authorization and a five-year bill with sweeping reforms put forward by the House.
MBTA will be following developments in Washington over the next months as the authorization moves through Congress.
No. 5: Tales from two ports
Big projects were underway in two of Maine’s deepwater ports this years. In Eastport, construction began on an $8.5 million bulk handling facility that was partially funded by a TIGER (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery) grant. When the facility is complete early this winter, the port will have a substantial new bulk storage facility (40,000 tons) and is expected to ship up to 150,000 tons of wood chips this year.
In Portland, after years of planning, Portland’s new $6 million Ocean Gateway Pier opened in September, doubling the city’s cruise ship berthing capacity. The 65-foot-deep megaberth was designed to accommodate, and hopefully attract, the largest cruise ships in the world. The floating Ocean Gateway Pier II extends 1,100 feet into the harbor and provides electricity and water for the ships that use it. Because cruise lines book their berths two years ahead, Portland officials expect to start seeing the real economic benefits after 2012. Portland hosted 65 cruise ships in 2011, collectively carrying 92,447 passengers.
No. 6: We have an operator
In April, MaineDOT announced Eastern Maine Railway (owned by Irving Transportation Services) had beat out five potential operators with its proposal to operate the newly dubbed Maine Northern Railway.
The state has estimated that the 233-mile line, purchased from Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway for $20.1 million earlier in the year, serves an estimated 25 businesses and supports approximately 1,000 jobs in the region.
Eastern Maine’s winning proposal to MaineDOT stressed what Irving general manager Ian Simpson believes are the operator’s chief strengths. “We have a strong presence in the region and good geographic connections. Winters are tough in the region, and we are experienced moving freight through winter conditions,” Simpson told Maine Trails. He added that Irving’s interest in the fiber and wood industry, as well as the transportation division’s working relationships with other rail carriers in the region –Canadian National, Montreal Maine & Atlantic (MMA), Pan Am Railways and, of course, New Brunswick Southern and Eastern Maine Railway– were also strong selling points.
Simpson said his initial goal was to get freight moving on the line again. The region has been hit hard by the recession that has seen demand for its primary products – lumber, fiber and other wood products – decrease significantly. That decline and a subsequent decrease in freight moving on the line was a deciding factor in MMA’s 2009 announcement that it wanted to abandon the line.
Another important element in Maine Northern’s strategy was to improve track speeds on the line. To achieve that goal, the new company would rely on track upgrades funded by a $10.5 million federal TIGER grant (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery). The funding is being used to upgrade the line that had fallen into disrepair during recent years.
No. 7: What is the Worst Road in Maine?
Bad roads represent a major cost for Mainers. First there is the added cost in car repair – nearly $250 in added vehicle maintenance every year. But this year’s “Worst Road in Maine” contest showed how much greater the toll rough roads take on Maine citizens.
This year, Carol Kelley of Waldo County won, competing against 120 entries – twice as many contestants as the year before. Her entry demonstrated that bad roads are not only inconvenient, but can be painful.
“My disabled son is my gauge,” Kelley wrote. “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. First prize of $250 for car maintenance went to offset the expense.
About the same time MBTA announced Kelley as the contest winner, the Road Information Program (TRIP) issued a report on the condition of rural roads in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Not surprisingly, Maine and its New England neighbors fared badly in TRIP’s assessment. Maine’s rural roads were ranked as the 14th worst in the nation.
“We definitely have fallen behind in our efforts to maintain our rural roads,” said MBTA President Randy Mace, noting that more than 50 percent of the contest entries were rural roads. “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.”
No. 8: Big news for big trucks
Thanks to years of hard work by Maine’s congressional delegation and aggressive brokering in the appropriations and subsequent conference process by Maine Senator Susan Collins, Congress passed a transportation bill in November that allows six-axle trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds on all interstate highways in Maine and Vermont for the next 20 years. That gives Maine truckers the same advantage as truckers in at least 22 states and Canada. The deal passed in late November and comes on the heels of a one-year pilot allowance in Maine and Vermont that expired in December 2010. Senator Collins had included language in the Senate appropriations bills, but similar language was not included in the House’s legislation. The provision ultimately was included in the final version of the budget bill developed by both chambers. During those final negotiations, language was added to put a 20-year cap on the exemption.
“This is a major accomplishment . . . [it] will help shippers, truckers, and Maine’s job creators. More important, it will improve safety for Mainers who live, work, and go to school along the secondary roads, and busy downtowns where these trucks had been forced to travel,” said Senator Collins in a statement. There is an effort afoot to make the exemption permanent. Representative Mike Michaud (D-Maine), who sits on the House Infrastructure & Transportation Committee, has been working with his House colleagues to forge legislation that would allow the exemption to become permanent by allowing states to make the final determination on the issue.
No. 9: Good night, Irene
In late summer, Tropical Storm Irene dropped 8.5 inches of rain on western Maine as it passed through the region. In Carrabassett Valley, mountain run-off from the storm filled surging streams and rivers.
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 –collapsed within minutes of each other when water overflowed the roadway.
Route 27 is a vital economic corridor for the region, and it also links the communities of Stratton, Carrabassett Valley and Kingfield. The double collapse not only stranded visitors at a nearby ski resort, it cut off a critical link to Canada and affected regional businesses.
Crews worked around the clock with an aggressive schedule to move temporary bridges into place and to begin work on permanent structures. On Tuesday at 8 p.m., just six days after construction started, traffic again flowed along Route 27 over the two temporary bridges.
The storm brought havoc throughout western New England. To help out neighbor state Vermont, 149 MaineDOT workers spent nearly two weeks working 15 hour days to help inspect and repair roads and bridges in that state.
No. 10: Simple is not so simple
The Highway Simplification Study, begun last year at the behest of the 124th Maine Legislature, brought together municipal officials from across the state and MaineDOT personnel to examine how the state and municipalities should share responsibility for nearly 23,000 miles of public roads. The core issue: how to care for a 4,100-mile network of “state aid” highways in an era of decreasing state and municipal funding.
“The whole reason for this study was to look at the problem of minor collectors, because there hasn’t been any capital improvements on those roads for decades,” said Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore, an MBTA board member. Dore was a member of the study’s Policy Working Group and served on the Standards and Costs Subcommittee.
The problem, as the final study report detailed, has roots reaching back nearly 100 years, when the Maine Highway Commission (forerunner of MaineDOT) tried to help municipalities modernize local roads made impassable by mud tracks from the growing popularity of automobiles.
The result of that early effort to develop the state economy through investments in transportation infrastructure led to Maine’s idiosyncratic “state-aid highway” classification, currently in conflict with the federal system of highway classification used by almost every other state in the country.
In Maine, to make the matter of jurisdiction even muddier, the state and towns frequently share responsibility for maintaining these minor collectors or state-aid highways. Towns provide the majority of the winter maintenance. The state maintains the roads in the summer. Subject to funding, they share capital responsibility (one-third paid through local funding/two-thirds from state funding).
The study found that this unique system of shared responsibilities has led to unclear roles, finger pointing, operational inefficiency – ultimately resulting in “orphaned roads” and inadequate customer service.
While no final action was agreed on, here’s what the study concluded: change is difficult; trust is critical; it’s good to aim high; and we need to focus on the positive.
What’s on their minds
Transportation Committee members Ann E. Peoples and Charles ‘Ken’ Theriault talk to MBTA’s Maria Fuentes.
Maine Trails: The Highway Fund budget recently enacted by the Legislature has significantly less 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 Ann E. Peoples: No, I do not support that.
Representative Charles ‘Ken’ Theriault: No, not at this time. I am very concerned with the lack of funding for our infrastructure. I am particularly disturbed for the companies doing highway construction work – they can provide good jobs if we put out a strong program of work. The expertise they have will be lost if we don’t keep these people and companies working. It is imperative for efficiencies, that we have the most efficient, the best people out there doing that type of work. We have to find ways to keep them afloat.
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, impacting sales and income tax revenues. Do you think that should change?
Rep. Peoples: Yes, I do, although I am not holding my breath.
Rep. Theriault: I would think that it needs to change simply because, as we sit, we don’t have the funds that are needed to even maintain the system that we have. At the very least, we should be maintaining our needs. We must find a way and maybe we need to revisit some of the previous legislation that was put in when former Senator Dennis Damon was here – L.D. 1790 – that created a blueprint for where we should be headed. As part of that legislation, we were supposed to have a flow of revenues going to transportation. We should revisit that and see what the possibilities may be for that. Because we are doing lots of skinny mix, and that is important. But we need to do much more construction. We all know there is a major need for keeping the infrastructure up to date.
Maine Trails: The last few work plans have been partially funded by general obligation bonds and GARVEE bonds, but the current work plan has neither. Do you support passage of a transportation bond to make critical capital improvements to highways, bridges and other modes? What about a GARVEE bond for highways and bridges?
Rep. Peoples: Yes, I do support both general obligation and GARVEE bonds. We need both in order to make investments in our transportation system and in our future.
Rep. Theriault: Yes to the general obligation bond. In terms of the GARVEE bond, we should consider having one for bridges. Again, all of this is dependent on what gets proposed to us as a committee. We should be proactive in that area, but I also think we need to hear more: I need a comprehensive picture of the needs before we decide what we need to spend.
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. Peoples: Yes, I sure do. I have so many transportation construction companies in my district. They hire people and pay them good wages, then those people turn around and invest in local businesses. These are skilled people. Let‘s get these people back to work.
Rep. Theriault: I think that model needs to be revisited and I suspect, from what I know, it is certainly one of the ways to get us off the dime. We still have a lot of people who need jobs, and we need to do a better job creating and maintaining jobs.
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. Peoples: We are at the point now that we need to ensure that our arterials are passable. If we can get some bonds passed, that’s what we need to do. Our economy relies on those roads, and so do our citizens.
Do we need to get “more bang for our buck” and maximize efficiencies? Of course we do – we have been doing that for years. But there are arterials and major collectors that are in dire shape. We need to get those roads fixed.
Rep. Theriault: The committee needs to look at what MaineDOT presents in terms of their prioritization legislation they have been working on. Let’s look at what the most immediate needs are, let’s discuss funding, and we will take it from there.
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 our priorities?
Rep. Peoples: Yes, we tried to do that. We are in the fourth year of the four-year Transcap bridge program. Do we need to do more? Absolutely. All you have to do is look at the bridge in front of the mill in Westbrook – three big chunks of the bridge fell out last year – President Obama even mentioned it in one of his speeches. That is a big deal for us. That is a major bridge; it turns into River Road and goes into North Windham where there is a lot of traffic. There are other bridges like this in Maine, and we need to fix them for the safety of our citizens and for commerce.
Rep. Theriault: Yes, it has to be, simply because of the information we are getting in terms of having major needs in the bridge areas. I know that first-hand because of the bridge between Madawaska and Edmonston that has to be replaced to modern day standards. The border stations are one of the main players regarding where the location of a new bridge might be. We must work with the community, the federal and Canadian governments and all the stakeholders to figure out where it should go.
Maine Trails: If you could request the federal government to fund one transportation project in Maine, what project would that be?
Rep. Peoples: The bridges connecting Kittery and Portsmouth – those are high on the list of needs. Those are our lifelines.
Rep. Theriault: The International Bridge in Madawaska.
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?
Rep. Peoples: I think that it would be a good idea – as a transitional method – to look at the way we tax commodities. What we need to do in the long-term is look at a sales tax – it would be a tough pill to swallow right now – but we should look at the excise portion of the gas tax and change that to a straight sales tax in order to flatten out the volatility.
Rep. Theriault: The fuel tax does not keep up with the needs, but it is one tool in the toolbox as a way to fund our system. However, the need is much greater, so we have to look at other funding methods. There should be a set amount coming from the General Fund each year, and we need to keep the gas tax, as well. We are way behind, but it is going to take a comprehensive picture of the needs before we decide what we need to spend.
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 of transportation?
Rep. Peoples: Yes, I think we have to be encouraging public-private partnerships to enhance rail. The shippers, or folks who want to use the system, have some skin in the game. We also need to be more committed to it. We have multiple-use transportation corridors – there is enough there to make everybody happy.
Rep. Theriault: I was a strong supporter of the Montreal Maine & Atlantic rail service – to ensure the northern Maine service stayed afloat. In fact, I sponsored that legislation. As we speak today, there has been an increase in the rail service since the state stepped in and a new company took over. It was the right thing to do, and the employees are much happier than they were before. Happier employees make for more productive employees. These are people who have good jobs and are committed to providing the best possible rail service for northern Maine.
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?
Rep. Peoples: We have bandaged River Road, so that’s good. There are segments of Route 2 over Wytopitlock [in Aroostook County] that need some major work – so that would be my entry.
Rep Theriault: Right now, Route 162 [in Aroostook County] starting at the town of St. Agatha going towards Long Lake, into Sinclair and leading to Route 161.
Turnpike, MaineDOT outline 2012 capital investment plans
The maine turnpike authority and MaineDOT recently announced plans for the 2012 construction season. The turnpike plans to advertise nearly $43 million in capital construction projects in 2012, while MaineDOT intends to advertise $228 million in capital expenditures.
The MTA capital program will invest $42.975 million in its bridges, pavement, interchanges, environmental mitigation and tolling facilities. The first turnpike projects were slated for advertisement in January 2012.
All told, the turnpike 2012 plan includes four bridge rehabilitation and two bridge repair projects totaling $15.8 million. The program also calls for six miles of pavement rehabilitation in Litchfield, five miles of paving, plus drainage and guardrail improvements in Biddeford; and pavement rehabilitation at the Scarborough and South Portland interchanges for $11 million.
There also are several projects in the “other” category including: improvements to two interchanges (Auburn and Lewiston); a Biddeford wetlands mitigation project; improvements to the Gray maintenance facility; and work on the New Gloucester open road tolling facility. In all, these investments are budgeted at $16 million.
The MaineDOT plan includes 231 capital projects all told including: 31 bridge projects (of which nine are bridge replacements); 26 highway construction projects; 71 highway preservation projects, including resurfacing and some rehabilitation projects; 16 light capital paving projects; 62 safety and spot improvement projects; and 25 multimodal projects.
At the low end of the 2012 plan are a series of intersection improvement projects budgeted at less than $20,000. At the high end are extensive highway and bridge projects including replacement of the Turner Center Bridge (budgeted at $7 million - $10 million) and removal of the Graham Lake Dam Bridge, and relocation of Route 180 in Ellsworth ($4 million - $5.01 million).
Several high profile projects are also included in the plan, such as Phase 3 of the Caribou Connector ($1.3 million - $1.7 million) and work to modify Exit 113 on I-95 in Augusta ($9.7 million - $11.99 million). The Augusta interchange is the biggest ticket item in the list ($9.7 million - $11,9).
MaineDOT also announced it has added $104 million to its current work plan, the result of a more optimistic outlook in upcoming federal funding and extremely competitive bids during the 2011 construction season. Several months ago, prospects called for a less than rosy scenario.
Approximately $98 million of that $104 million will be spent on capital projects. Most of that work will be advertised next year. Another $6 million is slated for highway and bridge design work and scoping that will cover approximately 20 highway projects and 13 bridge projects. It’s expected that about 50 percent of that work will go to outside consulting firms.
FMI: Download information on both plans, look for the link in the “Hot Topic
” box at www.mbtaonline.org.
The $1 billion question
PACTS legislative briefing raises questions of General Fund support, bonding and priorities
The problem is in many ways a simple one, according to Senator Bill Diamond (D-Cumberland) speaking at a legislative briefing on the region’s transportation system, December 14 at Ocean Gateway in Portland. “Nobody wants bad roads, but nobody wants to raise the gas tax to fix them,” said Diamond.
This was the third time PACTS (Portland Area Comprehensive Transit System) has brought together community and legislative leaders to talk transportation, and discussion soon zeroed in on the issue that many in the room felt was the most challenging barrier: how to maintain and improve the region’s transportation system. Finding the money to do so would help the 15 communities that form the PACTS study region cope with issues from congestion and mobility to economic development.
Diamond, who sits on the Maine Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation, was one of three legislators who spoke at the event. Senator Ronald F. Collins (R-York), one of the committee’s two chairs, and committee member Representative Ann E. Peoples (D-Westbrook) also addressed an audience of approximately 80 residents, local elected officials, transportation service providers and fellow legislators.
Nathan Poore, Falmouth town manager and chair of the PACTS Policy Committee talked about the “cumbersome and complex process” of planning and funding transportation projects. PACTS Director John Duncan introduced the PACTS members that were present and talked about the planning organization’s efforts to identity new sources of funding and to develop new ways to prioritize and pay for critical transportation projects.
Duncan mentioned how it is commonly believed that the federal government pays for local projects out of gas tax revenue in the Highway Trust Fund, but he said that has fallen in recent decades, and federal contributions now represent only 28 percent of transportation funding in the region.
Duncan said it is getting to the point where “we can no longer hope the federal government is going to pay for everything.” He talked of local efforts to fill the gap through increased municipal funding and other sources for improvements to a 200-mile network of collector roads and other transportation systems, including the region’s aging fleet of public transit buses.
Senator Collins outlined the efforts of the Transportation Committee to secure alternative funding during the previous legislative session to address state and federal gas tax revenues that have failed to keep up with the state’s transportation needs. Collins noted that while most states contribute General Fund monies for transportation at a level of 17 percent, Maine’s General fund support is less consistent and falls well short of that level. Collins said that the Transportation Committee had worked with Governor LePage’s office “to create a partnership between the Highway Fund and the General Fund, because the Highway Fund can’t stand alone.”
Collins detailed how there was a promise of $20 million in General Fund revenues, but that support fell by the wayside as other demands for funding took precedence at the legislature.
That transportation too often takes a backseat in Augusta is a major part of the problem, according to Senator Diamond.
“What strikes me the most is what a well-kept secret the Highway Fund budget is to the legislature,” Diamond said. Typically, legislators don’t even begin to debate the transportation budget until after almost all the other legislative business is complete and the General Fund budget is set.
“The problem is transportation is an afterthought,” said Diamond.
Representative Peoples saw the issue as a problem of public perception. She compared the state’s transportation system to a grand old Victorian that has been too long neglected. She said the impressive front porch and entrance hall are like the Maine Turnpike. But when you get to the second floor, it’s like Cumberland Street – full of potholes.
“You can see the sills are rotten, and that is kind of the way our infrastructure is,” said Peoples.
During the question-and-answer session, local residents raised their concerns: about how cuts in Mainecare would affect transit operations in the PACTS area; the need for a Works Project Administration-type investment in infrastructure to create jobs and stimulate the economy; the prospects for investment in commuter rail; and questions about the efficacy of the gas tax.
Legislators also provided opinions on several other issues. Senator Collins called for an end to transportation earmarks and for the federal government to turn over spending decisions to state departments of transportation. “Who better to make those spending decisions?” said Collins.
Senator Diamond said he had been concerned that the legislature could not agree on sending a transportation bond to voters in the last session and said he would work toward such a measure in the coming session, because otherwise roads and bridges would suffer. “If we [legislators] leave this session without a bond, then we will face the consequences,” said Diamond. He also voiced his support for refurbishing the Mountain Division rail line. Representative Peoples urged those present to take their concerns about transportation to a wider audience.
“We’re preaching to the choir here,” said Peoples. “I want you to know we hear you, and we will do our very best to make sure we move forward.”
John Duncan, PACTS director, agreed.
“What we’ve got to do is talk to our friends and family and neighbors about this,” said Duncan, noting that, only with growing public awareness and support, would area residents be able to transform the region’s ailing transportation system for the future.
Need for activism is key message at 61st Maine Transportation Conference
If ever there was a time to speak up for transportation, it is now. That was the overriding theme at the Maine Transportation Conference, a day-long event held December 1 at the Augusta Civic Center. More than 500 transportation enthusiasts – engineers, contractors, planners and municipal and business leaders – attended panel discussions and presentations on everything from innovations on the state level to successes in planning and implementing complex transportation projects on the municipal level.
Still, it was Janet Kavinoky’s call to action – for everyone in the room to become “an evangelist for transportation” – that set the tone for the day. Kavinoky, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s executive director for transportation and infrastructure, offered a dynamic view of the battle underway in the nation’s capital over long-term federal transportation authorization. Legislation has been held up since the SAFETEA-LU (the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act) expired more than two years ago. Since then, funding for highways, bridges and transit has come through a series of short-term extensions, and the gap between available transportation funding and a growing list of backlogged infrastructure projects has grown, not just in Maine, but across the country.
At the same time, Kavinoky spoke about recent gains, as public discontent over continued under funding of highways and bridges has bubbled to the surface and public anger over the two-week aviation shutdown this summer put the need for transportation funding in the national headlines. The aviation shutdown put thousands of federal workers and contractors out of work – which the public found unacceptable at a time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty. Kavinoky also mentioned signals from the Republican leadership that they would be willing to back a two- or three-year funding bill as a positive sign of movement on the issue.
‘Re-evaluate the message’
Kavinoky, who has devoted her career to transportation, serving four years at the U.S. Department of Transportation and working for the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), said public concern about the nation’s aging and inadequate transportation infrastructure is at its highest levels in decades. Still, that does not mean negotiating a solution will be easy. She spoke about the need to raise the federal fuel tax, an effort the U.S. Chamber has been squarely behind for several years.
“We’re the U.S. Chamber and, normally, we’re known as the tax lowering people. But we’re not afraid to say that raising the tax on gas and diesel is the best way to fund transportation, and we have been saying that for several years,” said Kavinoky. “Still, the public support is just not there.”
Kavinoky conceded that without public support or Congressional willingness to take a leadership role, the outlook is dim. She said we will need to identify other revenue sources – both public and private – to bolster the buying power of the flagging Highway Trust Fund.
Kavinoky said now is the time to “re-evaluate our tactics and message” because the typical ways of talking about transportation needs are not working with the public.
“The ‘sky is falling’ approach isn’t working. While Congress and the media love a scare story, the public trust and confidence in that message isn’t working. The public thinks ‘We’ve given you all that money, what have you done with it?’” said Kavinoky.
She said that going forward, striking a balance will be critical. “The first fight is for the middle. Transportation is about balance of the public and private.”
From Kavinoky’s macro view, presentations throughout the day drilled down to look at what is being done on the state and local level to address the transportation challenge. A morning panel led by Jack Basso, AASHTO director of program finance and management, looked at how states are coping. Basso spoke of several high profile state projects – reconstruction of I-64 in Missouri, the launch of open road tolling in Delaware and the reconfiguration of the Allan Road / U.S. Route 12 intersection in Yakima, Washington – as examples of states taking the initiative to deal with issues including congestion and funding. Basso mentioned inroads some states have made in raising revenues, despite the current anti-tax climate, including Indiana’s sales and use tax and Vermont’s recent addition of a 2 percent state sales tax that will help boost transportation funding there.
Panelist George Campbell, Jr., who recently left his post as commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and also served as Maine Commissioner of Transportation, said that, in many cases, states are their own worst enemies when it comes to advocating for more funding. He described the typical state DOT mindset as “one of ‘can-do.’ We solve problems no matter how much or how little is thrown at us. We don’t let things fail, and I don’t think we should change that culture,” said Campbell. But he said that states do need to let lawmakers know just how great the “infrastructure deficit” is in their states and how much that neglect is costing society – in increased maintenance costs and lost productivity.
Campbell talked about New Hampshire’s efforts to tackle its own infrastructure deficit, how that effort was helped by the federal stimulus funding and the support of the New Hampshire Legislature. The state has undertaken several major projects, including the Manchester Airport access road, a $175 million project completed in November; reconstruction of the Spaulding Turnpike in Newington-Dover; and reconstruction of the three bridges that connect the state with Maine – on which construction of the first – Memorial Bridge – is just about to begin.
Fellow panelist North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Dr. Eugene Conti, Jr., discussed his state’s efforts to fund needed transportation improvements in tight economic times.
Conti said his department’s credibility with both taxpayers and state legislators has been buoyed by efforts to develop data-driven analyses of transportation benefits and cost. Conti spoke of a recent battle at the North Carolina General Assembly to end indexing of the state gas tax. His department provided lawmakers with a clearheaded accounting of precisely how much revenue would be lost – $125 million annually – if a 2.5-cent increase did not go into effect. According to a NCDOT report, that would mean fewer bridges and miles of highway repaired – and fewer jobs.
In the end, the state legislature took what Conti called the “courageous” stand and allowed indexing to stay in place. Conti’s department remains focused on performance measures, using its limited funding resources from the gas tax, GARVEE (Grant Anticipation Revenue) bonds, and tolling to create a transportation system for the 21st century – despite a 60 percent gap between secured funding and anticipated needs.
While much of the conference focused on transportation policy, the funding gap at the state level and local efforts in Maine to find innovative ways to stretch transportation dollars, issues including emerging environmental management trends, new technologies and practical design were also discussed.
The conference also featured the work of UMaine engineering students, and at the luncheon, an award was given for the best student paper presented earlier in the day – “Wildlife Collision,” by Joshua Simpson.
The day concluded with a banquet and presentation by Dave Sotero of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority who spoke about “Carmageddon,” the weekend this past summer when I-405 in Los Angeles, the most congested freeway in the nation, was shut down to enable crews to demolish and replace the Mulholland Bridge.
According to Sotero, the agency coordinated efforts of several entities for the historic shutdown – demolition contractors, engineers, Caltrans, LADOT, Metro and local law enforcement – to redirect more than 500,000 vehicles that use the freeway on a typical weekend. He said that LADOT committed 380 traffic control officers overall and 37 changeable message signs to the fix. Caltrans provided another 64 freeway message signs, each displaying traffic conditions and detour information.
There were also incentives for drivers to use public and air transportation – free subway and bus rides, discounts on Amtrak and special $4 airfares on JetBlue. And, of course, there was a major public information component that incorporated “Shop Local” and “Countdown to the Closure” campaigns, television, Twitter, Facebook, internet and coordination with GPS services Tom Tom, Garmin and Magellan.
The evening program also included the announcement of the Max L. Wilder Award, given every conference by the MBTA to the speaker who garners the highest number of votes from conference attendees. This year, the award went to Patricia Quinn of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, who spoke about developments on Maine’s passenger rail scene.
61st Maine Transportation Conference
Luncheon Conference Awards
MaineDOT David H. Stevens Award:
FHWA Award for Environmental Stewardship:
Judy Gates, Director, MaineDOT Environmental Office
FHWA Paul L. Lariviere Award:
Student Paper Awards:
First: “Wildlife Collision,”
Joshua Simpson, UMaine
Second: “Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS),” Brian Steele, UMaine
Third Place: “Queuing Theory,” Nick Hartley, UMaine; and “Pavement Preservation,” Shaun Turner, UMaine
MBTA Max L. Wilder Award:
Thank you, conference sponsors!
Louis Berger Group
Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.
The ATM Coalition
Kleinfelder / SEA Consultants
The Lane Construction Corp.
T.Y. Lin International
GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc.
Erdman Anthony & Associates, Inc.
GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc.
VHB/Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.
Wyman & Simpson, Inc.
CLD Consulting Engineers, Inc.
MRG, Inc. (Maine Rail Group)
Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers, Inc.
UMaine’s Ferguson looks to build on institution’s success and create a ‘sustainable’ educational model
At one point during his talk at the December 8 MBTA Holiday Meeting, UMaine President Dr. Paul W. Ferguson called for a show of hands by the UMaine alumni in the room. The fact that more than a few dozen audience members responded was proof for the premise of Ferguson’s talk that UMaine is a powerful force in the state’s economy.
Ferguson was the guest speaker at the 2011 MBTA Holiday meeting at the Black Bear Inn in Orono. Named to the top post at UMaine in March of 2011, Ferguson told the more than 100 MBTA members and friends assembled that the challenge will be how to ensure that the university continues to play an essential role in the state’s future, attracting the brightest minds, securing research funding and encouraging homegrown talent and industries to set stakes in Maine. He spoke of the school’s roots as a land grant university founded in 1865, and its mission to serve the state.
“How do we work together to meet the needs of the state? How do we become a transforming agent for the future?” asked Ferguson. With just a few months at the helm of the state’s largest public educational institution, Ferguson has spent his time getting to know the students and campus and defining just what traits the university has that will serve it best in the future. One of those is what Ferguson calls “the quality of student experience.” He said that all too often he hears that UMaine wasn’t students’ first choice for secondary learning. He believes that it will be essential to better communicate the high level of satisfaction that UMaine students have with their experience at the school to make UMaine “the first choice of every student in Maine.”
The second important factor will be continuing to support world-class research. Whether it is composite technology or tire-derived aggregate, Ferguson spoke of the immense “economic development potential that our research can provide.” He said that already, UMaine attracts $100 million annually in research funding, two times that raised by its peers in New England, making the school one of the top 100 public universities for research in the nation.
The third factor is the quality and dedication of UMaine’s alumni. That was when Ferguson asked for UMaine alumni in the audience to raise their hands. He said to have so many UMaine graduates among the business and community leaders in the room was “an incredible statement” of the university’s critical role in the future of the state.
Still, he warned of several challenges ahead: continuing to attract a strong enrollment; and maintaining a dynamic revenue stream to support the education quality and research so essential to the university’s and state’s future.
In the end, Ferguson said that it all comes down to one thing: UMaine’s ability to create “strategic, practical solutions to improving the quality of life in Maine.”
The annual MBTA Holiday Meeting is one of the highlights of the association’s calendar, and the 2011 meeting did not disappoint. The get together affords members the chance to network and take a look back at the year’s events. The meeting is also a gathering place for community, state and transportation industry leaders, and the MBTA welcomed several current and former legislators: Assistant House Majority Leader Andre Cushing (R-Hampden); Representative Doug Damon (R-Bangor); and former Senator Dennis Damon from Hancock. Carol Woodcock, from Senator Susan Collins’ Bangor office brought video greetings from the senator who spearheaded the successful effort to get a 20-year provision for higher truck weights passed in the U.S. Congress as part of the 2012 appropriations legislation. MBTA President Randy Mace also recognized long-time MBTA member George Thomas of the Sargent Corporation, who will soon be retiring. George, who has been an active member of the organization will be sorely missed – particularly at the annual fall convention, where he has been known to goad his fellow members into bidding up items in order to fatten up the MBTA’s Infrastructure Development Fund.
“George, you are a class act,” said Mace as members showed their appreciation with a round of hearty applause. Mace also recognized Don Raye, a former MBTA president and Maine Transportation Achievement Award winner who has recently reitred after a distinquished career in the industry.
MBTA members got the chance to meet 10 recent MBTA Educational Foundation Scholarship winners from UMaine’s engineering and construction management programs. Mace introduced each, including: Joseph Birckhead; Ian Messier; Benjamin Myers; Nicholas Hartley; Caleb Frederick; Katrina Martin; Christopher Parent; Greg Dexter; Peter Poor; and Erik Bodwell. They were joined by UMaine College of Engineering Dean Dana Humphrey, Per Gardner, a professor of engineering at the college, Will Manion from the Civil Engineering department and Phil Dunn from the Construction Management Technology department.
As is tradition, the MBTA announced winners of two of its biggest annual events at the December 8 meeting: the annual membership recruitment contest and the Super Raffle. Mace began with results from the 2011 membership campaign, giving high praise to the committee chair Jack Sutton of MRG, Inc., who also was this year’s top recruiter: “His dedication and leadership as chair of the committee were pretty incredible,” said Mace. “Jack has told us for years that transportation touches every possible industry sector, and we should be reaching out beyond the ‘likely suspects’ in the transportation and construction engineering world and bring them into the fold.”
Mace recounted how Sutton did just that in 2011, recruiting Jackson Labs, McCain Foods, Robbins Lumber and the Great Wall Buffet in Augusta. Sutton, with typical modesty, accepted the award, then went on to recognize the other 19 members of his committee that went above and beyond to bring in a total of 22 new corporate members and seven individual members. Top among those were Peter Piattoni of Fay Spofford, who took second place in the membership contest (four corporate members); second place winner Bruce Manzer of Bruce A. Manzer, Inc. (two corporate members); and Kerby Ouellette from the Lane Construction Corporation who placed fourth (one corporate member, four individuals).
The evening concluded with the drawing of the 2011 Super Raffle winner. The raffle is the primary fundraiser for the MBTA Educational Foundation, that every year awards scholarships to students pursuing education in transportation related fields. This year, the raffle sold out before the meeting, raising $17,500 for the fund. To date, MBTA members have raised $93,000 for scholarships through the annual Super Raffle.
The committee sold 500 tickets altogether, and several committee members were recognized for their efforts: Bruce Hubbard of ETTI sold the most – a whopping 161 tickets; John Wardwell of the Lane Construction Corporation sold 63 tickets; Paul Koziell of CPM Constructors sold 56 tickets; and Doug Hermann sold 54 tickets. Other committee members selling tickets included Tom Gorrill, Greg Dore, Lauren Corey, Debbie Dunlap Avasthi and Phil Grondin, Jr.
MBTA Educational Foundation Committee Chair Tom Gorrill called up UMaine President Ferguson to help draw the raffle winners. First place winner was Tim Ouellette of CPM Constructors, who won a $7,000 trip to anywhere in the world. Second place winner was Tom Purington of TP Construction who won a $500 L.L. Bean gift certificate. Bruce Manzer won the third place $250 L.L. Bean gift certificate.
The evening’s 50/50 raffle winner was Rodney Lane of Lane Construction who won half the pot ($242) collected during the opening reception. Rodney very generously donated his winnings, so all $484 in proceeds from the raffle went to the MBTA Educational Foundation. Thank you, Rodney!
Many thanks, also, to all our members who came out this fall and winter to support the MBTA with generous donations of time and money for these very important fundraisers!
2011 MBTA Holiday Meeting
Wyman & Simpson
About the speaker:
Dr. Paul W. Ferguson
Dr. Ferguson, a native of Southern California, is no stranger to the value of a high quality technical education. He earned a B.A. in biology with highest honors at Whittier College in 1974 and a Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology at the University of California, Davis, in 1981. He has worked in private industry and taught at the University of Louisiana, Monroe, where he was dean of the Graduate College and professor of toxicology. He also served as senior vice provost and vice president for research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In 2006, he was appointed provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. He was named UMaine’s19th president in March of this year.
The many lives of Don Raye
The former MBTA president and Transportation Achievement winner takes it outdoors
By Kathryn Buxton
Don raye has stopped by the headquarters of CCB, Inc., in Westbrook with a mission. He is beginning to clean out the office he has occupied for the past several years as an owner at CCB.
Today is the day of the company holiday breakfast, and even though he officially retired earlier in the year, he’s been enlisted to serve as chief elf and charged with distributing presents. There are gag gifts, inside jokes and, of course, lots of laughter, and it is quickly evident how happy his former employees are to see him.
Raye began work at CCB in 2002, when he joined the company as its vice president of finance. Two years later, Raye bought the company with Beth Sturtevant. The two ran the company together with Sturtevant as majority owner for seven years.
His job at CCB was in many ways a new professional life for Raye, one of several career shifts in a remarkably varied path. He has, by his own reckoning, had four distinct careers: in finance, construction, community service and as an entrepreneur.
“I never had any kind of master plan,” said Raye. “But I did find that big things can happen from small decisions.”
Born to Carolyn Bradish Raye and Wadsworth “Wad” Raye, Don grew up in Eastport and Brunswick, Maine.
The Rayes have been a large presence in Maine for several generations, and he feels a strong debt to his father and grandfather for his own ability to adapt and thrive in life. He calls his father “one of the smartest men there ever was.” Wad Raye was an artist, musician, engineer and businessman who worked alongside Don’s grandfather at the family’s mustard mill in Eastport.
Young Donald, with the blessing of his father, early set his sites on a career in the Maine woods, but after a year at the University of Maine in Orono, he determined there weren’t many jobs to be had in forestry. He transferred to the Portland Business College with the goal of eventually returning to Eastport to work with his father at the mustard mill. Don graduated in 1965, and after talking it over with his father, made one of those small-decision-big-change decisions.
“We talked and he thought it would be good for me to get some experience with someone else before I went back to work at the mustard mill,” said Raye.
That “someone else” turned about to be the southern Maine accounting firm now known as Macdonald Page & Co LLC, where Raye soon found he had a knack for accounting.
So began Raye’s first professional life in the world of finance. At Macdonald Page, Raye honed his business skills and developed an expertise in auditing and taxation.
“I found out that I was not only good at it, I liked it,” he recounted. Between 1965 when he joined the firm and 1972, Raye established a flourishing clientele in the banking industry, and quickly moved up the company ladder becoming senior manager responsible for audits and tax returns for many Maine banks. He earned his CPA designation (Certified Public Accountant) in 1972.
The second major professional shift for Raye came in 1973, when he joined the accounting firm of Houde and Boucher in Brunswick. He worked there for 16 years, becoming a partner in the firm. When he became a partner, he earned a place on the marquee – Houde, Boucher, Perkins & Raye. In a sense, Raye believes that was his second professional life. At the Brunswick firm’s office, he built a specialty working with clients in the construction industry.
“I liked the people in construction. So much of my early career was in finance and financial management and that was more litigious and what I would call ‘defensive’ accounting,” said Raye. By contrast, working with construction firms – many of them smaller, family owned businesses – was like taking in “a big breath of fresh air.” Perhaps because he grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, he could identify with the struggles of these hardworking business people.
“It was a thrill working with small contractors and helping them grow and prosper,” said Raye. “It was much more satisfying professionally.”
Raye left the accounting business in 1989 to join Bancroft Contracting as vice president of finance. Just 13 years later, Don Starr, head of another construction firm, CCB, Inc., tapped him to take over as his firm’s head of finance. Two years later, Raye purchased the firm with business partner Beth Sturtevant. This marked Raye’s third major career change, as co-owner of a major construction company, a role he remained in until 2011 when he officially retired.
Raye’s fourth professional incarnation came in 1980, when Al Prince recruited him to join the board of the Maine Good Roads Association (the forerunner organization of the Maine Better Transportation Association). The organization was in a tough spot. Maine and the world were on the edge of a global recession at the time. Unemployment was on the rise, and the state’s construction industry was suffering. Maine Good Roads was facing serious problems, and Raye’s financial expertise proved invaluable.
“The organization clearly had financial challenges. It was just a matter of dressing it up and getting it better at managing its own finances,” said Raye with characteristic modesty. With the help of Raye and his fellow board members, Maine Good Roads secured a bank loan to see the organization through, and developed a budget and financial plan.
The organization emerged from the reorganization in 1983 with a new name (Maine Better Transportation Association) and a newly expanded mission – advocating not only for roads and bridges, but also rails, trails, marine and aviation. Raye continued his service on the MBTA board for 25 more years, and served as president of the organization from 1985 to 1986.
His inaugural message as president in Maine Trails, underscored Raye’s belief in the power of community activism: “I believe that organizations such as ours are critical in the political process to ensure that the viewpoint of concerned citizens and businessmen are represented. We can make a difference. The voice of MBTA is well respected by lawmakers and officials alike. . . The strength of our voice is dependent on a strong and active membership. Our message should be a clear, concise, well thought-out reflection of our views.”
Raye’s lasting impact as a leader of the transportation community also can be seen in the work he undertook to help establish the MBTA Educational Foundation. While the MBTA and Maine Good Roads had awarded transportation scholarships for years, Raye saw the value in formalizing the process. He and several other foundation board members helped establish the foundation as a tax-exempt organization and inspired fellow members to contribute to a scholarship fund that has grown from a few thousand dollars in the early 1990s to more than $350,000 today.
“Don’s role at MBTA has been a critical one,” said MBTA Executive Director Maria Fuentes. “He just gets it. He understands the role that transportation has in the state’s economy and has always urged us as an organization to leverage our members’ considerable leadership capital to advance the industry and the state.” Don’s tireless work with the organization and on behalf of the transportation industry was recognized in 2008 when he was honored with the Maine Transportation Achievement Award.
In addition to his work with the MBTA, Don has served on the board of the Construction Financial Management Association and AGC Maine. He has been a trustee of the AGC’s education foundation. He also has been president of the Norway-Paris Kiwanis Club, a trustee of Norway Public Library, a corporator of Norway Savings Bank, and a founder and president of the Growth Council of Oxford Hills.
When Raye began planning the move into the newest phase of his life, he did it with characteristic forethought. He trimmed his hours at CCB by half and rented a winter home in Lakeland, Florida with his wife Verna. From there, he telecommuted between 10 and 30 hours per week for CCB. He also played more golf and he and Verna became regulars at Detroit Tigers games during spring training.
When warm weather returned to the northeast, he and Verna headed back to their home in Norway, Maine – and to their beloved lakeside camp in Perry. “It’s great to take more time to hunt and fish and not have to feel guilty about it,” said Raye. He admitted that, while he and Verna had been tempted by exceptionally favorable Florida real estate prices, they were committed renters for now. Besides, he said “my soul and true love is in eastern Maine.”
A born leader, Raye already has organized hunting and fishing outings for friends and family – on the Allagash and in Alaska. He is known for his skill with a frying pan and typically serves as breakfast cook on the outings. Raye also has his sights set on other destinations, including Prince Edward Island, western Virginia and Colorado.
His transition to what he views as his “fifth job” has been all the more successful due to his personal philosophy – which is to approach everything he undertakes with a commitment to doing the job right.
“You have to be proactive about your happiness and personal life the same way you do with your work,” said Raye.
MaineDOT View: Balancing budget, priorities and customer service levels.
Prioritization drives new capital goals
By David Bernhardt, P.E., MaineDOT Commissioner
Over the last year or so, three Maine Trails articles have outlined MaineDOT’s framework to manage Maine’s highway system based on highway corridor priorities (HCP) and customer service levels (CSL). In the last article, we illustrated how the HCP/CSL matrix will be used to benchmark current highway and bridge conditions and to assist with prioritization of candidate projects for the biennial work plan.
In this article, MaineDOT is proposing new capital goals based upon this same framework. This approach allows us to achieve our mission of responsibly providing the safest and most reliable transportation possible given available resources. These new goals have been submitted for legislative consideration in this session (L.D. 1753 – An Act to Improve Transportation in the State, Part B). If adopted, these “right-sized” goals and practical designs will cut our unmet capital needs nearly in half, setting the stage for more realistic and hopeful discussions regarding capital funding.
The Maine Legislature set the existing capital goals in 2007 (PL 2007, Chapter 470). These goals, codifi ed in 23 MRSA §73 (6), were a milestone in that they set a direction and provided a requirement for MaineDOT to report progress towards them on a biennial basis. The original goals were developed during a time when there was a reasonable expectation for substantially increased federal and state funding for surface transportation.
But times have changed. Neither the federal nor state motor fuel tax is likely to increase in these challenging times, and other options such as a mileage-based user fee are not yet viable. Just as families and businesses need to set priorities and revisit their goals when money is tight, we need to set realistic expectations in order to continue to provide a safe and reliable transportation system.
Comparing the cost of the existing goals against funding resulted in a $2.7 billion highway and bridge unmet need over the next 10 years, leaving us $270 million per year short. To place this fi gure in context, this equates to nearly a 40-cent increase per gallon in fuel tax, currently set at 30 cents.
PROPOSED ‘RIGHT-SIZED’ GOALS
Our proposed right-sized goals based on highway corridor priorities and customer service levels are customer-focused, outcome based and will lead to common sense transportation solutions. They will provide a transportation system that is adequate and meets the public need versus “one size fits all” national design standards that Maine simply cannot afford.
The proposed replacement goals can be summarized as follows:
Priority 1 and 2 Highways
Eliminate all CSL “D”s and “F”s in 10 years (Safety, Condition and Service). All roads Fair or better.
Priority 3 Highways
Eliminate all CSL “D”s and “F”s in 15 years (Safety, Condition and Service). All roads Fair or better.
Priority 4 Highways
Implement a program that will maintain Ride Quality at “C” (Fair) or better within five years.
Priority 5 Highways
Continue the seven-year cycle for light capital paving. As an integral part of the HCP/CSL framework, bridge CSLs would have similar targets for safety, condition and service, with public safety being paramount.
Even with these right-sized goals, there would still be a substantial unmet capital need, but the need would be reduced by nearly half. Fullhighway and bridge reconstruction would be targeted to the higher priorityhighways, while lower priority highways would see more highwayrehabilitation, paving and bridge repairs versus full reconstruction.
Once we have reasonable capital goals based on customer expectations and have stretched available dollars using practical designs, the stage is set for policy debates about state priorities and transportation funding needs. Working with the governor and our congressional delegation, we look forward to those discussions.