Work on the road ahead. Passing the bond and advocating for long-term solutions. By Doug Hermann.
Why we need a ‘war chest.’ The MBTA Infrastructure Development Fund. By Kathryn Buxton.
Alphabet soup. PACTS picks up some new letters – TMA.
Causeway for celebration. The new Naples causeway opens for traffic.
Turnpike to increase tolls. Cites maintenance and rehabilitation needs.
New Veterans Bridge opens. Links Portland to South Portland and past to future.
History lessons. Outgoing and new presidents look at history, future of MBTA and transportation.
Bridge power. How to build an underwater platform using bridge technology.
Clean Harbors’ 4 Rs. Recovery, recycling, reuse and emergency response. By Greg Soucy.
MAP-21. What does it mean for Maine? By David Bernhardt, MaineDOT Commissioner
Work on the road ahead
It is an honor to begin my term as president of the MBTA, an association with such a rich history in advocating for transportation investment in Maine. You may read about some of our more recent history – the history of the MBTA Infrastructure Development Fund – in our cover story. We spoke with Frank Healy and Earle Cianchette – two past presidents – each of whom was instrumental in creating and developing this fund along with many board members and others who donated through sponsorships or attendance at golf tournaments or through our annual silent and live auctions, or by volunteering at events.
The goal is to raise $1.1 million by 2015, a “war chest” that eventually will be self-sustaining and provide seed money for campaigns, educating the public on the link between investment in transportation and economic vitality. Already, we have made grants to support bond issue media campaigns, the turnpike widening initiative, and efforts through Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development and the East-West Highway Association to complete north-south and east-west routes. We also continue to oppose efforts that would reduce or impinge transportation funding.
Being MBTA president is an honor, and in preparation I reflected on the many tasks ahead of us. Our immediate goal is to get a transportation bond passed this fall. The transportation bond on the November ballot will read: “Do you favor a $51,500,000 bond issue for improvements to highways and bridges, local roads, airports and port facilities, as well as for funds for rail access, transit buses and the LifeFlight Foundation, which will make the State eligible for at least $105,600,000 in federal and other matching funds?”
MBTA members know how critical it is to get this passed. We know this is a drop in the bucket compared to our needs. Even by MaineDOT estimates, the shortfall per year is $150 million in order to maintain our system. Does this bond get us there? Of course not, but if this doesn’t pass, we will slip further behind.
In the mid-term, we have to work with Governor LePage and the new Maine Legislature to ensure that the General Fund contributes more to our transportation system. Our research shows us that other states, on average, contribute 17 percent of their state’s general fund revenues to pay for highways and bridges. Maine has no consistent General Fund contributions to our system. This has to be at the forefront of our agenda.
Looking to the future, we need to advocate that our state and federal leaders – our senators and members of the House – find a sustainable funding mechanism for our transportation infrastructure. Maine can’t find a solution on its own – it has to be part of a national effort. We must work with other constituent groups and help make transportation more of a federal priority, like it was in the 1950s when this country built the interstate system.
Allies in Washington
We are most fortunate to have an ally in U.S. Senator Susan Collins, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senator Collins has proven her absolute commitment to transportation, not only in getting the truck weights legislation passed after many had tried for decades, but also in securing various TIGER grants to fund highway, bridge, rail, port and aviation improvements. We also have an ally in Congressman Michael Michaud, who is on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House, and who has fought relentlessly for our state.
We will miss Senator Olympia Snowe, a beacon in the Senate who, like Senator Collins, has put the needs of Maine before party politics. We wish Senator Snowe well. We look forward to working more with Congresswoman Pingree, who also understands the importance of infrastructure investments.
Finding a national solution will be important, and we have to work with other groups, not only within Maine but on the national level, to move transportation higher on the political agenda.
Down the road
We have to look to the future. One way to create leaders is to invest in our young people who will be our future workforce. I hope you will continue to help us grow the MBTA Scholarship Fund, so one day, it will be self-sustaining and we can fund our scholarships through the earnings.
We have a lot of work on the road ahead. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank each and every one of you for your participation and support. Whether you are a sponsor, an advertiser, you serve on a committee or if you faithfully pay your dues, your membership and support matter to us. You are the lifeblood of our organization.
Whatever your participation, we thank you for being here, for working alongside us, for helping us to make transportation a higher priority for our elected officials. We hope to see you at our fall convention September 14 - 16 at the Portland Marriott. We will begin with a tour by Portland International Jetport Director Paul Bradbury of the Jetport’s new terminal. The program will provide 1.5 professional development hours for those interested. The weekend will feature a Casco Bay cruise and reception, a golf tournament and tours of Portland.
We also will have our traditional lobster bake and auction. So please join us!
Again, I look forward to working with you in the next year.
Why we need a ‘war chest’
The MBTA is all about fighting for better transportation infrastructure. Over the years, that battle for public awareness and support has required considerable discipline and, of course, dollars. That’s where MBTA’s ‘war chest’ – the Infrastructure Development Fund – comes in.
By Kathryn Buxton
Since the very earliest days, Maine Better Transportation Association (MBTA) has gone to battle for transportation – at the state legislature and in Washington. The first battle, over the diversion of public money intended for highways and bridges, was waged for several years after the organization was founded as the Maine Good Roads Association (MGRA) in 1939. Maine had enacted a 1¢ state gas tax in 1923, and by the late 1930s, as the country was struggling to recover from the Great Depression, there were great pressures put on lawmakers to siphon off monies from the state’s fledgling Highway Fund. The founders of MGRA fought for a state constitutional amendment to protect the Highway Fund.
Today that battle – and others related to the adequate funding of a safe and efficient transportation system – continue to claim the organization’s energies.
“In many ways, we are still fighting the same fight the founders of Maine Good Roads faced in 1939,” said MBTA Executive Director Maria Fuentes. “We know that we are not spending nearly enough on our transportation system, that we are falling behind, and that there could be significant economic fallout if we don’t act soon to fix our roads and bridges.”
What has changed since 1939, said former MBTA president Earle Cianchette, is the scope of the fight. “MBTA’s original mission as a watchdog of the Highway Fund has changed. It’s grown beyond that,” said Cianchette, senior vice president for operations at Cianbro. Cianchette cites the organization’s decision in 1983 to expand its membership and mission to include not just support for highways and bridges, but also rail, ports, aviation, bicycle, pedestrian and transit.
‘The short end’
The need to support that expanded mission has been a constant battle, and by the 1990s, the fiscal demands of the battle were beginning to weigh on MBTA members.
Notably, the fight to widen the southern end of the Maine Turnpike, while ultimately successful, proved a turning point for the organization. That battle heated up in 1991 when Maine voters halted the widening project and approved the passage of the Sensible Transportation Policy Act (STPA). The campaign led by environmental interests in opposition to the widening was a wake-up call for the transportation leaders. It was a tough lesson, but one that MBTA board members took to heart.
“We found ourselves on the short end of the stick in getting our side of the story out there,” recalled former MBTA President Frank Healy, who was at the time district manager for the Lane Construction Corporation.
So when six years later, the MBTA led a coalition of Maine interests in support of the widening, the 1991 defeat had crystallized the MBTA’s support and resolve. As Fuentes told a reporter from Toll Road News, “We actually spent less money this time but we spent it better. We started earlier and we pitched a positive message. Jobs and safety were our two themes.”
Still, the two very expensive campaigns – the transportation and business community spent $1.2 million to fight the 1991 referendum and another $850,000 on the 1997 campaign – gave the MBTA board pause.
Building a ‘war chest’
The 1991 and 1997 campaigns required an enormous amount of time and focus from the MBTA’s board of directors, and even with the overwhelming public support of the widening – the 1997 vote was nearly 60 to 40 percent in favor – the board recognized the war was far from over.
“We realized there were groups out there that were anti everything,” said Healy. “We felt we needed a good pool of money to fight for issues we felt were important and that members felt strongly about.”
That was about the time Healy urged his fellow board members to think longer term and establish an Infrastructure Development Fund. The intent was to provide a reliable source of funding for the organization’s outreach and public awareness efforts and to relieve some of the heavy burden of constant fundraising for MBTA causes.
“We were continually trying to raise money – for scholarships, for this campaign, for that campaign, all for issues pertinent to transportation – and we were always going to the same members to ask,” said Cianchette. With the Infrastructure Development Fund, the board hoped to broaden financial support for MBTA’s advocacy work and to build what Cianchette called a “war chest.”
Much like today, Cianchette said the MBTA was fighting several battles: about widening the turnpike; about Highway Fund money being used to pay for Maine State Police operations; and of course the daily battles about bonding and state transportation budgets that then, as now, fell short of meeting maintenance needs. And many of those skirmishes required resources for studies, media time and outside consultants.
“We set our sights pretty high and everyone eventually supported it,” he said, noting the original goal was to raise $500,000 for the fund within 15 years. Since that time, the board has raised that goal, setting it at $1.1 million by 2015. It is expected the fund will reach $700,000 by the end of 2012.
Healy added: “We knew that if we had a substantial amount of money and if it was invested well, we would have a significant amount – maybe five to eight percent a year – to put to issues we felt strongly about,” said Healy.
Fuentes recalled the concept of committing to that kind of long-term fundraising effort was a big step for the organization, and that it was Healy who led the debate, urging his fellow board members to think long-term and think big. “Frank had an enormous role and, as it turned out, incredible foresight. I’m not sure that anyone at the time realized just how much of a need we would have,” said Fuentes. She said Healy felt so strongly about it, he and his employer, The Lane Construction Corporation, made the very first $1,500 donation to help establish the fund.
Cianchette said credit also is due to many other MBTA board members at that time, including Mike White, Millard Pray and Herb Sargent. He said they saw the need and set a clear path to addressing it when they encouraged the board to establish the fund.
Sweetening the pot
The next obvious question for the board was how to raise the money. The idea of an annual golf tournament came into play.
“We knew we had to be very disciplined about it and to reach that goal we needed to raise about $30,000 to $40,000 every year,” said Cianchette.
“Our first thought was golf. We had been to enough golf tournament fundraisers, and so we thought, ‘Why not? It works for those groups, and this is a cause near and dear to our hearts. Why wouldn’t it work for the transportation industry?’”
Cianchette chaired the very first Golf Committee in 1997. The August tournament, held at the Falmouth Country Club, was a success with more than 100 golfers particpating. It raised $7,000.
“If you think about it, the idea of a golf tournament was the perfect tool for building the fund,” said Fuentes. She said that it comes at the height of the construction season in Maine, so it’s a good opportunity to take a break and network with friends and colleagues. It also is fun, so it is easy to build support and enthusiasm for the event.
“Rather than just sending a check for $500, you get to have a good time. For a lot of us, it’s about team building and a chance to find common bonds with your industry peers,” said Cianchette.
In the early years, the Golf Committee added other fundraisers to the event, including selling mulligans and sponsorships. To reach the goal, the board decided in 1998 to assign the proceeds from the annual fall auction to the Infrastructure Development Fund. The tournament has continued to be a successful fundraising tool. This year’s event at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester – the 16th annual – was sold out with 144 golfers taking part. By early estimates, the event raised $23,000, more than three times that raised during the first year.
Where the money goes
As disciplined as the board has been about raising money for the fund, the group has beenequally rigorous in how it disburses funds. ypically Infrastructure Development Fund money is given in support of important transportation initiatives. The first donation was $15,000 to the 1997 widening referendum campaign. The board also has voted to provide underwriting support for Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development (a group that consistently has worked to advance a north-south highway) and the effort to establish an east-west highway route, to support transportation bond voter initiatives, as well as donations opposing efforts that would undermine state investments in Maine’s transportation system.
“It was Earle who really led the board to place spending limits on the fund to make sure that it would have the chance to grow,” said Fuentes.
She added that those limits have forced great discipline, and during some years, like recent ones when the stock market underperformed, the board has not been allowed to dip into the fund.
Rarely in its 16-year history has the board strayed from that mission and made a donation to a non-transportation cause. In 2001, the board voted to make a $5,000 contribution to help families of victims from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York.
No rest for weary
By early 2012, the fund balance had reached approximately $650,000, and the board remains intent on growing it to its $1.1 million goal.
“If anything, there is a need for an even bigger war chest these days,” said Fuentes. She cited increasing competition for public dollars at a time of decreasing government revenues, as well as the competition for the public support that can help steer more public dollars to the maintenance of Maine’s transportation infrastructure.
Coalescing broad-based support for transportation issues is also becoming increasingly costly as the political and social landscape – and the range of media for reaching out to the public – has changed in recent years.
“It used to be you could produce a radio or a TV spot and reach everyone who you needed to reach,” said Fuentes.
“Now, you have traditional media and social media,” said Fuentes. “The public’s attention is increasingly fragmented, and you have to be a lot more sophisticated in how you shape and broadcast your message. It is important the coalition-building work the fund supports helps carry the MBTA’s message about transportation safety and economic development to key audiences on a daily basis.”
Healy said he doubts the need for the Infrastructure Development Fund will ever go away, because the public and legislature will always need to be reminded of the role transportation plays in a healthy state economy.
“We’ve done a good job in getting our message heard,” said Healy who believes that MBTA and its mission have made inroads among state leaders, thanks to strong leadership from the board, continued efforts from its staff and financial support from the Infrastructure Development Fund.
Ever the visionary, Healy warns against resting on MBTA’s laurels.
“Transportation is going to change and look different in 20 years . . . in 50 years. . . and we need to be forward thinking,” said Healy. “Maine is a rural state, and we don’t have any choice. We need roads and bridges and ports and rail. We need to protect the infrastructure we have.”
PACTS members get a lesson in acronyms as MPO prepares to become a TMA
By Kathryn Buxton
As you venture forth into new territory, it’s good to know the local dialect. That was one of the lessons learned at the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System (PACTS) 2012 annual meeting, June 26 at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Center in Portland. The language in question is the uncanny amalgamation of acronyms that dominate whenever the 15 PACTS community members gather: USDOT (United States Department of Transportation); FTA (Federal Transit Administration); FHWA (Federal Highway Administration); MaineDOT (Maine Department of Transportation); GPCOG (Greater Portland Council of Governments); SMRPC (Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission); RTP (Regional Transportation Program); CBITD (Casco Bay Island Transit District); NNEPRA (Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority). . . and the list continues.
The hot topic at the meeting was the impact of the recent announcement that the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) would soon become a TMA (Transportation Management Area). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an MPO is an urbanized area defined in the most recent decennial Census with a population of more than 50,000 people. A TMA is an area designated by the Secretary of Transportation, having an urbanized area population of more than 200,000. Both designations affect the amount of federal transportation dollars allocated to an area, as well as the governmental structure required to determine how those dollars are spent.
Nathan Poore, Falmouth town manager and chair of the PACTS Policy Committee, made this comparison during his opening remarks: “When I think about it, I think of the MPO as flexibility. I think of a TMA as home rule.”
Poore was speaking of the provision that means PACTS will receive an additional $6 million in federal funding directly allocated by Congress over which the organization will have discretion.
PACTS Director John Duncan provided a brief history of the organization, established in 1975 with just seven communities. PACTS has since expanded to include 15 communities, and soon will add two more: Arundel and Raymond. The group oversees the expenditure of $13 million in local, federal and state transportation spending on infrastructure and planning, including $2.3 million annually spent on transit. Duncan also offered elected municipal officials, state lawmakers and local citizens a look back at the organization’s challenges and achievements. Those have included work at several high traffic and critical transportation corridors in the 15-region MPO including: Dunstan Corner in Scarborough; the Route 1 corridor in Biddeford; Bill Clarke Drive in Westbrook; improvements to Riverside Avenue at Warren Avenue in Portland; and $8 million in paving projects in eight PACTS towns.The organization has spearheaded a series of recent transportation studies, as well. Chief among its recent efforts has been working with member communities to cope with decreased funding and increased demand on the region’s transportation system. To that end, PACTS has developed a system to better preserve the region’s collector roads before they further deteriorate.
Duncan also introduced the group to the structural, funding and organizational issues that face PACTS, as it makes the transition from MPO to TMA. Will PACTS committees include elected officials? Will the organization, which is adding two new members, break down into regional subgroups to improve efficiency? How will the group integrate congestion management processes into its operations? Will the new TMA continue to receive the $10 million in federal funding it currently receives via MaineDOT, in addition to the $6 million allocated by Congress? How will the organization comply with federal performance measures? The annual meeting concluded with a panel that addressed some of those questions, as well as others posed by members of the audience. On the panel were: Noah Berger from the Federal Transit Administration; John Duncan from PACTS; Steven Gayle from Resource Systems Group; Cheryl Martin from the Federal Highway Administration; and Herb Thomson from MaineDOT.
Berg, whose firm specializes in consulting with TMAs throughout the country, summed up what appeared to be the consensus opinion in the room. “Think of this as an opportunity, not a threat,” he said. “PACTS is a good MPO. You need to figure out how it can be a good TMA and become the best, most representative forum for cooperative decision making.”
Causeway for celebration
New bridge, once a cause for community concern, is celebrated
The new Bay of Naples Bridge in Naples opened to vehicle traffic on May 18. The bridge is part of a $9.2 million restoration of the Naples causeway that includes a 15-foot wide boardwalk running along the Long Lake side of the bridge and a seawall along the Brandy Pond side.
The community celebration of the opening, which included a marching band, speeches and parades of antique and late model cars, was the culmination of nearly two years of work, according to the MaineDOT. The new bridge replaces the 1954 “swing bridge” with a solid steel-reinforced structure that is 20 feet thick and rises 10 feet higher than the old bridge at its peak. The bridge also features a 30-foot wide navigation channel especially designed for marine traffic, an important feature in this lakeside community. That channel opened for boat traffic on May 23, well in time for the area’s influx of summer visitors. Wyman & Simpson, Inc. of Richmond is the primary contractor on the project.
Bob Neault, chairman of the Causeway Restoration Committee noted: “This occasion marks a truly significant milestone in the history of this development project, the town of Naples and the Lakes Region as a whole. In addition to the incredible space that we are creating in Naples, this effort should serve as a blueprint to other communities and demonstrates what can be accomplished when state and local governments come together with community and business leaders in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration to address issues that affect all of these diverse interests.”
Drivers in a caravan of antique cars honked their horns and waved to the hundreds of onlookers who hung over the rail of the new bridge. The cars were the last ever to cross the 58-year-old swing bridge at Naples’ causeway that had deteriorated to the extent it had to be replaced. The new bridge was built next to it.
All the speakers on hand commented on the dedicated cooperation of the state, town and contractors that were so vital in seeing the project become a reality.
“MaineDOT is proud to have been a key partner in achieving a great balance between the need for efficient statewide travel and the need to promote local economic development and quality places,” said MaineDOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Van Note. “When we all work together, we can ensure that villages are not just a commuter route, but are places to visit, shop and stay, further helping to demonstrate once again, what it means to be in Maine.”
The event was covered broadly in the press, and the upbeat nature of that coverage was in contrast to news stories during the public planning process. Local residents had fought hard to have MaineDOT install a new swing bridge to replace the old one. Some nearby residents and businesses had worried the MaineDOT’s decision to forgo another swing bridge with a fixed-span bridge would prevent boats from passing between Long Lake and Brandy Pond and hurt the causeway’s economy. MaineDOT eventually compromised with a higher bridge design, leaving a height of 12.5 feet to accommodate most boats.
Still, many locals were pleased with the fixed-span bridge design, since they’d no longer have to wait in traffic for boats to pass. (The old bridge opened every two hours.) Many at the opening celebration said they believed the new bridge and ensuing improvements will draw more people to the area.
Representative Rich Cebra (R-Naples), who is a co-chair of the Maine Legislature’s Transportation Committee, spoke for many of those present: “This project is a shinning example of the local businesses, the town government and MaineDOT working together to revitalize the beautiful area around the Naples Causeway. As a resident of the area, I am extremely excited to be a part of this celebration today.”
While the bridge has been opened to the public, there is still work remaining on the project, including demolition of the old bridge and construction of a potential amphitheater. Work is scheduled to be complete in spring 2013, but MaineDOT has said it could be done as early as this fall.
Turnpike to increase tolls
Set to go into effect in November, the increase will raise an additional $21 million in revenues
The Maine Turnpike Authority is expected to vote on a toll increase in mid August. The change, which passed a preliminary vote by the Authority board on August 2, would go into effect this November. The plan will increase the rate commercial vehicles pay from four times to 4.25 times the passenger rate.
The toll increase also will raise passenger toll rates by 50 cents at most toll plazas and $1 at the York plaza. E-ZPass rates will increase from 6.7 cents to 7.4 cents per mile. The increase is expected to generate $21 million annually in additional revenues. The Authority has stated it needs the additional revenues for maintenance on the toll highway, as well as to pay off its existing debt.
Before settling on the final plan, the Authority considered 10 different scenarios, some that would have raised as much as $28 million annually. The Authority held a series of public meetings in June and July to elicit public comment on the proposed increase – including in Auburn, Gardiner, Portland, Saco, Wells and York. Opposition included concerns about the appearance of equity in the toll hike and the burden the increase will have on communities near the affected toll plazas – in higher travel costs and increased traffic on local roads and already congested state highways due to drivers avoiding tolls. Commercial drivers also voiced their concern about the increased burden of higher tolls on their industry.
The toll increase has had its share of supporters, as well. Maine Governor Paul LePage has said he understands an increase is needed. Still others have noted that benefits come with a well-maintained road– including economic development and increased tourism. According to the Bangor Daily News, Vaughn Stinson, chief executive officer of the Maine Tourism Association, said a poorly maintained road would be a greater concern, because it would threaten the state’s tourism industry. “No one wants to see a toll hike, but there’s probably a greater cost to not raising the funds needed to make investments in the state’s transportation infrastructure. . . If the roads are beat up or pot-holed or unsafe, they [tourists] are just not going to come. And the thing is, they tell everybody about that [bad] experience.”
Concerns about making the toll increase equitable have echoed among drivers and officials along the corridor, including in Portland where Mayor Michael Brennan issued a statement. “Before rushing to a conclusion, a careful economic and traffic analysis is warranted. Portland commuters and businesses should not be asked to carry more of the burden than towns and cities either north or south of us. These rate increases should be fair and equitable.” The Portland Press Herald also published an editorial in support of user fees like tolls, noting that Mainers should “get over their aversion to tolls” if they want to have modern, safe and well-maintained roads: “The Maine Turnpike is the best built and maintained road in the state, thanks to the way it is financed. No one likes to pay tolls, but they are the best way to make sure that the people who use the highway, including out-of-state truckers and tourists, pay the cost.”
Among lowest in nation
The toll increase comes after the agency has taken several steps to lower its operating costs, including staff reductions and changes in procurement practices. The MTA’s most recent budget lowers operating costs by more than 11 percent. The agency also has reduced debt service payments by $13.6 million by reﬁnancing its outstanding debt.
“We’ve anticipated this for years,” Turnpike Executive Director Peter Mills told the Bangor Daily News during the public input process. “We’ve done what we can to mitigate it in the sense that we refinanced a lot of these bonds at much lower interest rates.”
New Veterans Memorial Bridge opens
The new 1,600-foot Veterans Memorial Bridge connecting Portland and South Portland over the Fore River was officially opened June 28th with many dignitaries and members of the military in attendance.
The new bridge runs parallel to the old Veterans Memorial Bridge that was completed in 1954. The old bridge, now closed, had reached the point of rapid structural deterioration. Construction of the new bridge was considered a safety priority.
The river crossing connects two of southern Maine’s largest communities and is one of the busiest bridges in the state, carrying 22,000 vehicles a day. The new bridge is expected to reduce congestion at a critical intersection on the Portland side where the Fore River Parkway and Valley and Commercial Streets connect to I-295.
Begun in July 2010, the new bridge cost $65.1 million, and $50.8 million of that came from federal funding. The design features plazas at both ends and scenic overlooks. It includes a 12-foot wide dedicated path for walkers and bicyclists. That path is separated from motor vehicle traffic by a curb and metal barrier to ensure safety for all users. Work will continue on the bridge through late fall, together with the demolition of the old bridge. The bridge is a design-build project that employed nearly 20 different Maine firms. Reed & Reed of Woolwich was the primary contractor on the project. T.Y. Lin International designed the bridge.
Among the dignitaries on hand for the opening were Maine’s First Lady Ann LePage; Mayor Michael Brennan of Portland; Mayor Patricia Smith of South Portland; and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, who flew from Washington, D.C., to attend the ceremony.
“The project put people to work and will continue to support economic growth into the future,” said Administrator Mendez. “It represents a long-term investment in transportation that will improve quality of life and promote livability for Portland area residents.”
Mendez stressed the importance of projects like this in helping put Americans back to work. Between 100 and 150 people have been employed on the project since it began two years ago. “That’s big for the economy,” Mendez said.
First Lady LePage saluted the service men and women for whom the bridge was dedicated and cut the ribbon opening the bridge. “To all veterans who are currently serving and to our future heroes, let this bridge be a symbol of your strength, dedication and fortitude. All Mainers salute you,” said LePage.
Fifty soldiers of the Maine Army National Guard, a trolley carrying local, state and federal dignitaries and a contingent of local cyclists were among the first to cross the bridge.
Downeaster celebrates new platforms, setting stage for expansion
After 12 years of planning, the Amtrak Downeaster came one step closer to servicing Freeport and Brunswick on May 14 when officials and train advocates celebrated the opening of new passenger platforms in both towns. Regular train service to the towns is expected to launch this fall.
The train now makes five round-trips daily between Portland and Boston, carrying more than 500,000 passengers a year. With the additional stops at Freeport and Brunswick, that number is expected to increase by 36,500 within a year of service, said Rob Kulat, spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration.
Initially, there will be three round-trips daily between Portland and Brunswick, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) that manages the Downeaster. Trips will be added in the future if necessary. The Downeaster has carried more than 4 million riders since it started providing passenger service between Portland and Boston in 2001. The train makes stops in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo joined in the celebration. So did Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt and a host of local business leaders. Szabo told the crowd the expansion project is on time and on budget, financed by a $38.3 million federal economic recovery grant from 2010 being used to upgrade 28 miles of rail line for passenger service.
The anticipation of expanded service has already attracted millions of dollars in economic development near Freeport and Brunswick, said Bernhardt. The restoration of passenger service, which ended in 1959, is expected to promote business, increase tourism, save energy and reduce traffic on Maine highways and local roads. “Freeport is now ready for the arrival of the Downeaster this fall,” said Ed Bonney, chairman of the Freeport Train Committee, which has been working to bring Amtrak service to town for 12 years. In a press release, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood hailed the accomplishment: “Brunswick and Freeport are great examples of how rail investment can provide jobs, greater economic development and greater mobility.”
According to the NNEPRA, the work along the Downeaster corridor is creating business orders and sustaining and creating jobs at 53 companies in 20 states. To prepare tracks for trains, workers must now finish replacing 22,000 railroad ties along tracks owned primarily by Pan Am Railways, Quinn said. They must also complete upgrades on the last six of 30 highway crossings and fine-tune the overall railroad signal system. The Downeaster project will improve 36 highway-rail grade crossings, upgrade numerous wayside signals, install signals on the Brunswick Branch and make many other right-of-way improvements.
The rail authority is seeking a federal transportation grant and bids from contractors for a layover and maintenance facility in Brunswick expected to cost at least $5 million, according to Quinn. The state has provided additional funding to help cover project costs, including the construction of the Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant passenger platforms in Freeport and Brunswick.
Mace and Hermann look back during 73rd MBTA annual meeting
There were 13 former MBTA presidents gathered at the organization’s annual meeting May 10 in Augusta. So it was more than fitting that MBTA’s outgoing and incoming presidents both offered an historical look at transportation, funding and the economy of the state of Maine, as well as a few glimpses of what they expected ahead.
Outgoing MBTA President Randy Mace of Anderson Equipment offered a look at recent history in the state legislature, and promises of General Fund support for transportation that have gone unfulfilled.
“We had hoped that the Maine Legislature would recognize the need to send some General Fund monies into the transportation coffers, but that hasn’t happened,” said Mace. Mace was specifically speaking of Governor LePage’s proposal during the 125th Maine Legislature to allocate up to $20 million in General Fund revenues to Maine’s capital transportation needs. Mace said that General Fund support for roads and bridges “would only seem fair,” noting that sales taxes generated by the sale of transportation related items account for approximately 20 percent of all Maine sales tax revenues.
Mace also talked about a disconcerting trend in state transportation funding over the past four decades – what he called “a monumental shift in budgeting priorities” – that has only worsened in recent years. In 1976, the state spent 26 percent of its revenues on maintaining its transportation network, while today it spends less than 10 percent on transportation.
“The funding mechanism that we rely on to provide a safe and efficient transportation system to move our economy forward – and more importantly to move our families through their lives – is on life support and fading fast,” said Mace.
‘Primary function of government’
For his part, incoming MBTA President Doug Hermann, of Wyman & Simpson, Inc., looked at how, in history, transportation had helped build Maine’s economy. “Maintaining a transportation system for commerce is a primary function of government,” said Hermann at the outset of his remarks. He then backed up this idea traversing history from the War of 1812 – which at the center was about the new nation’s ability to maintain international commerce routes – to the birth of the paper mills in the mid-1850s to the establishment of the interstate highway system in the mid-1900s.
“The world changes and so do our transportation needs. . . This leads me to the three top goals for the next 12 months: funding, funding, funding,” said Hermann. He talked about the immediate, mid- and long-term transportation funding needs.
In the short term, Hermann urged members to help get out the vote for the $51.25 million transportation bond referendum in November.
“Our citizens have figured out the importance of investing in transportation and the proof is at the ballot box,” said Hermann. He cited strong voter support for transportation investments, ranging from 58 percent to 72 percent in recent years.
In the mid-term, Hermann said he will work with the board to advocate for General Fund support for transportation.
“Our research shows us that other states, on average, use general funds to fund transportation at about 17 percent,” said Hermann. “While we were unsuccessful so far this year in garnering that support in the legislature, it has to be at the forefront of our agenda.”
He also said a priority during his time as president will be to promote sustainable solutions on the federal level: “We need to advocate that federal leaders – our senators and members of the House – find a sustainable funding mechanism for our transportation infrastructure. Maine can’t find a solution on our own – it has to be part of a national effort.”
He noted that spurring action on the state or federal level would not be easy, given policymakers’ reluctance to raise fuel taxes over the past 20 years.
“Can you imagine if we were forced to charge the same today to deliver a product in our businesses as we did 20 years ago? That is ludicrous,” said Hermann.
Thanks all around
More than 200 MBTA members, family and friends attended the 73rd annual gathering at the Augusta Civic Center. Notable among those present were MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt and Maine Turnpike Authority Executive Director Peter Mills, who earlier in the day participated in a briefing on the two agencies’ 2012 capital programs.
Past presidents at the meeting included: Richard Martin; Don Raye; Tom Hey; Rocky Cianchette; Mark Barnes; Phil Grondin, Jr.; Steve Sawyer; Tim Folster; Scott Leach; Greg Dore; Lauren Corey; Tom Martin; and Deborah Dunlap Avasthi.
In his farewell speech, Randy Mace thanked event sponsors for their support of MBTA’s efforts to advance a safer, more efficient transportation network in Maine.
He also offered his heartfelt appreciation to his employer, Anderson Equipment, for its generous support during his time as MBTA president; to his wife, Bonnie, for being by his side during the past 12 months; and to his predecessor, Deborah Dunlap Avasthi, for being “a great role model.”
Anderson Equipment Company
The Lane Construction Corporation
Wyman & Simpson, Inc.
The Louis Berger Group
Berkley Surety Group
Hudson Asphalt Group
The Rowley Agency, Inc.
H. O. Bouchard, Inc.
F.R. Carroll. Inc.
Fay, Spofford & Thorndike LLC
GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc.
Milone and MacBroom, Inc.
Shaw Brothers Construction, Inc.
VHB/Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.
Whited Peterbuilt of Maine
Willis of Northern New England, Inc.
@work Personnel Service, Inc.
Becker Structural Engineers, Inc.
John T. Cyr & Sons, Inc.
GEI Consultants, Inc.
R. W. Gillespie & Associates, Inc.
Gorham Sand & Gravel, Inc.
R. J. Grondin & Sons, Inc.
Haley & Aldrich
Hanover Insurance Company
Hews Company LLC
Jordan Equipment Co.
Macdonald Page & Co LLC
Maine Drilling & Blasting, Inc.
Maine Tourism Association
NITRAM Excavation & GC, Inc.
Portland International Jetport
Pratt & Sons, Inc.
E. J. Prescott, Inc.
Prock Marine Company
Skillings-Shaw & Associates, Inc.
Steven & Jay, Inc.
Thompson Rolec Enterprises, LLC
Wellman Paving, Inc.
At Eastport meeting, CPM Constructors and Ocean Renewable Power tell of using bridge technology to construct innovative power project
About 70 MBTA members headed Downeast for the annual Washington County meeting on June 14. The highlight of the meeting was a presentation organized by CPM Constructors’ Paul Koziell, on that firm’s innovative use of bridge building technology to construct an underwater platform for Ocean Renewable Power’s (ORPC) first commercial tidal power generators.
The setting, the Eastport Chowder House at the water’s edge, is not far from where the first of the company’s Maine tidal power generators at Kendall Head and Western Passage in Cobscook Bay are expected to go on line with Central Maine Power’s electric grid later this year.
MBTA Vice President Tom Gorrill of Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers was the evening’s emcee, first introducing Maine Senate President Kevin Raye (R-Washington County), who just two days prior had won his party’s nomination for Maine’s Second District U.S. House seat.
‘Good debt, bad debt’
Raye welcomed MBTA members, family and friends to Eastport, where he and his wife, Karen, operate Raye’s Mustard Mill, a family business established in 1900. During the last session of the Maine Legislature, Raye was a strong proponent within his party of a transportation bond referendum, despite objections from several in his party, and he explained his position this way:
“I happen to believe there is good debt and bad debt and building and maintaining transportation infrastructure for the public welfare and commerce is a basic function of government,” said Raye.
Gorrill then introduced Koziell, who with Peter Krakoff of CPM Constructors and Bob Lewis of ORPC described the first-of-its-kind project from its launch in 2006, through the lengthy regulatory process to its planned hook up to the electrical grid later this year.
Koziell, who is CPM’s chief operating officer, talked of his company’s involvement in the project, and how CPM has partnered with Morrison Manufacturing to form Perry Marine Construction, the company serving as primary contractor on the underwater construction project.
“This project has been challenging, fun and the first of its kind,” said Koziell, describing the scope of the construction. Perry Marine is fabricating, installing and deploying five tidal generators and steel platforms on the floor of Cobscook Bay. Koziell said his firm’s considerable experience constructing bridges and other marine structures has been an asset during the unusual project.
Lewis, who serves as ORPC’s director of operations and planning and chief safety officer, spoke about the enormous and complex undertaking that has employed 100 people in 13 Maine counties and helped establish a service and supply chain for a brand new power industry.
“We’re developing a power source and we’re developing a technology, but that also leads to developing communities,” said Lewis.
‘Turn on the switch’
Peter Krakoff, a CPM vice president, talked about the great challenges to the design and fabrication of the steel platforms that will secure the tidal power generators to the floor of the bay. Construction conditions for the project have added a level of challenge to the project – 50-foot variations in the tide, and slack tides, the periods where construction can occur with a minimum of current, last only 45 minutes. To aid in the construction, Perry Marine commissioned four thousand feet of anchor lines specially designed to withstand the effect of the current. And Perry oversaw the design and construction of a 50-by-100-foot, 93,000-pound support frame for the generator and turbine that is anchored to piles driven into the ocean floor. The piles will keep the generators and turbines in place despite a force described by ORPC as equivalent to that of 8,000 locomotives.
“On September 1, we plan to turn on a switch and connect the generator to the electrical grid,” said Krakoff. Still, he was quick to say that already he considers the project to be a “great success for CPM, for Morris Manufacturing and for Perry Marine.”
The evening concluded with the traditional 50-50 raffle drawing. John Wardwell was the winner, and he immediately donated the $150 prize back to the MBTA Educational Foundation, doubling the amount of the evening’s total donations towards scholarships.
FMI: The Washington County Meeting is one of several regional meetings hosted by the MBTA throughout the year addressing transportation and related business issues.
Clean Harbors’ 4Rs
Recovery, recycling, re-use and responding to emergencies at one of the nation’s leading environmental, energy and industrial services company
By Greg Soucy
Clean Harbors does more than its name implies. The 30-plus-year-old, $2-billion company has become a leading provider of environmental, energy and industrial services throughout North America. It serves more than 60,000 customers, including Fortune 500 companies, thousands of smaller private entities and numerous federal, state, provincial and local governmental agencies.
From the beginning, Maine has been an important market for this Massachusetts-based company. Two of Clean Harbors’ early acquisitions were Shark Oil and Pollution Control Unlimited, both based in South Portland, in 1985. They established Clean Harbors, early on, as a statewide environmental services and oil recovery provider.
Naturally, one of the first actions the company took was to join the Maine Better Transportation Association and it has been an active member ever since, represented by Jim Letteney, the company’s senior account manager for oil sales. (Many will recognize Letteney, a regular volunteer at MBTA’s annual Infrastructure Fund Golf Classic.) He is a former educator and school principal who joined the company 25 years ago. He has seen the company grow over the years, working first in sales, then as a plant manager and again in sales, playing a key role as the firm has developed a market for the company’s reclaimed fuel products sold for use in asphalt paving, papermaking and other industrial applications.
Today, Maine hosts Clean Harbors’ industrial services, field services and oil services operations, employing close to 100 people working out of facilities in South Portland and Bangor. Technical services provide a broad range of hazardous material management and disposal services including the collection, packaging, transportation, recycling, treatment and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Field services handles a wide variety of environmental cleanup services at customer sites and for the road, rail and marine transportation sectors on a scheduled or emergency response basis. All of its operations have a big impact in Maine.
MBTA members are probably most familiar with Clean Harbors’ oil recovery and reuse program. “We dispatch 6,000 gallon tank trucks to collect used petroleum products, primarily automotive lubricants, from repair shops, quick lubes and dealerships throughout the state,” explained Letteney. “We also collect oil throughout New England, Eastern Canada and New Jersey and transport it to our terminal in South Portland where we have about 7.6 million gallons of storage capacity.”
The oil is treated with demulsifiers that separate out water and strip out solid contaminants. It is then filtered to create what’s called “on-specification” used oil fuel that is sold throughout the state to asphalt and hot mix producers to fire their rotary kilns. It is sold to large statewide and regional producers, as well as small, local producers using large Clean Harbors tankers to deliver the product throughout Maine.
So, Clean Harbors is creating a market that recycles and reuses waste oil and provides a cost-effective alternative to burning virgin product in asphalt and hot mix plants. “This is a terrific reuse of waste oil,” continued Letteney.
“Many MBTA members are either suppliers or customers who benefit directly. For the rest of the membership, and the public at large, if you’ve been on a road in Maine today there’s a good chance that the asphalt you drove on was produced using on-specification used oil fuel from Clean Harbors.”
Letteney said that key in creating that market has been education, a role that Letteney has excelled at, considering his experience as a teacher and principal. “There’s an educational component to this, explaining the Clean Harbors product and differentiating it from other products in the market,” said Letteney.
The field services side of the company handles a wide range of services that benefit Maine industry, as well as transportation.
Clean Harbors’ Director of Field Services Jack Vallely explained, “We have a fleet of trucks that we use to transport and dispose of waste for different customers.”
Vallely added: “We also have an industrial services division that goes into the paper mills, power plants and other industries to clean their boilers, get rid of their ash and remove other industrial wastes. We do their routine maintenance on their shut downs when they have to clean their heat exchanges, the cooling tunnels and other equipment.”
This is the part of the company that Clean Harbors’ customers like to read about but hope to never have to call. Clean Harbors’ emergency response end of the business responds to events such as spills, truck rollovers and releases from ships and trains. “We do the majority of the boomings and the line handlings in the Portland and Searsport areas,” said Vallely.
Clean Harbors has emergency response contracts with many trucking and transportation companies. So, if there’s a problem, Clean Harbors is just about the first call that they make. If a trucker doesn’t have a contract, the State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will call in an environmental responder based on their proximity and capabilities.
One recent emergency response took place in late May in Bucksport. Clean Harbors was called after four train tanker cars derailed on the banks of the Penobscot River with all of them off the track and one car nosing into the river. The tank cars were carrying clay and latex for use in the paper making process. Clean Harbors dispatched a team, secured the area and transferred thousands of gallons of material to other train tanker cars.
That was a pretty dramatic situation but most of the emergency response situations are smaller, ranging from a spill at an industrial plant to spills or overfills of heating oil during the winter. Vallely said that they respond to about three spills a week and that everyone who operates a commercial vehicle should be prepared.
“The smart idea for a trucking company is to have an emergency response agreement set up with Clean Harbors or some other environmental clean-up services company,” said Vallely. “That way they know who to call if they have a problem, they can count on a quick response time and will have pre-established rates. It makes the state happy, too, when they know that the transportation company has made arrangements to respond to a spill.”
Clean Harbors’ participation in the MBTA is an important part of the company’s corporate citizenship in the state of Maine. “We help remove wastes, recycle petroleum products and respond to emergencies,” said Letteney.
“We’re not real high profile; outside of our trucks, you don’t see much of us, but we’re here contributing to the way life should be in Maine.”
MAP-21: What does it mean for Maine?
MAP-21: Key points
- Highway Trust Fund will be shored up with $18.8 billion from federal General Fund
- Stable funding and tax collections for two years (through 2016)
- Funding for Maine flat, with small, inflationary increases
- Currently represents 40 percent of MaineDOT funding
- 60 federal programs reduced to four core programs
- States will work with federal government to establish national performance measures and streamlined processes
- New policy measures will become baseline for future authorizations
Knowing what to expect is a good thing. In the world of transportation funding, it is an awesome thing. The federal government recently enacted a new transportation funding bill entitled Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21. For Maine, the new legislation can be boiled down to three things: predictability, flat funding and streamlined process.
The $105 billion agreement is for 24 months, running to the end of federal fiscal year 2014. For the next two years, our federal funding – a little more than 40 percent of the department’s budget – will be stable and consistent. At the state level, this will allow us to breathe a little easier and is a nice break from the cycle of 11th hour extensions of SAFETEA-LU, the last federal authorization act that expired in 2009.
Pending future appropriations bills and actual obligation limitations (that generally provide slightly less funding than those listed in authorization bills), funding for Maine appears to be flat with small inflationary increases. This is in line with MaineDOT’s capital planning, that had assumed flat federal funding.
This is good news, in that federal funding is predictable for the next couple of years. Although, even with recent efforts to stretch the dollar through new prioritization frameworks and practical design standards, Maine has a transportation funding gap estimated at about $150 million per year. As SAFETEA-LU expired, those of us in the industry feared a serious funding reduction in the next authorization bill. By extending the Highway Trust Fund and tax collections through federal fiscal year 2016, states are able to realize additional stability.
MAP-21 includes several efforts to further stabilize the Highway Trust Fund, which had been projected to be bankrupt within the next few years unless action was taken. One of these provisions includes a transfer totaling $18.8 billion from the federal General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund. Another interesting, non-highway related budget maneuver used to help stabilize the Highway Trust Fund was developed from tax revenues from roll your own cigarette machines. It is reassuring to see the federal government look to nontraditional sources and recognize that highway funds alone cannot meet the needs of our infrastructure; it takes a General Fund appropriation. The same is true at the state level.
Under MAP-21, the highway program is restructured by eliminating or consolidating approximately 60 programs into four core programs. We are unsure exactly what this consolidation will mean for Maine, but are optimistic; in theory, fewer programs may lead to less administration. MAP 21 also establishes national goals, and the USDOT will work with states, MPOs, TMAs, transit agencies and stakeholders to create performance measures. On the surface, these two changes seem similar to the prioritization effort we have implemented at MaineDOT, but again, time will tell.
MAP-21’s 24-month authorization is the shortest time frame in recent history. Authorization for specific programs only lasts two years, but the policy changes become baseline transportation law on a permanent basis. If a new law doesn’t explicitly change these provisions, they stay as they are in this bill. Many of these changes include a more streamlined process, something that we at MaineDOT have been actively seeking for years.
MAP-21 exempts from the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process the repair or reconstruction of transportation infrastructure that is damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster or similar emergency. Projects would be required to match the previous design specifications of the damaged or destroyed structure. It also creates a two-phase contracting process that allows preconstruction activities and land acquisition to occur prior to the completion of a NEPA review if the action will not adversely affect the environment.
A new policy adopted in MAP-21 creates incentives for federal agencies to expedite reviews and issue approved permits. Specifically, budget cuts would occur if an agency fails to complete its portion of a review within 180 days of the time the managing agency has taken certain actions or fails to issue a permit after the permit application has been approved. Cuts to an agency’s budget would total $20,000 per week for any project requiring an annual financial plan, or $10,000 per week for any project requiring an environmental assessment. These cuts are capped at 7 percent of the agency’s administrative funding for the year. We’re hoping that a financial “carrot” will help projects move forward in a timelier manner.
We are relieved.
In Washington, and at the state level, flat funding is the new good. Although the devil may certainly be in the details as we move forward under the program, our overall impression from MAP-21 is a good one. For now, we appreciate the stability that the program provides and look forward to working with our federal counterparts on its implementation.