What’s next? With the passage of Question 4, advocates now must look for longer-term solutions. By Doug Hermann
Pulling out the stops. After a long journey, the Downeaster now stops in Freeport and Brunswick.
Wayne’s world. Passenger rail advocate Wayne Davis takes time to reflect.
Getting to YES. The MBTA led the coalition instrumental in passage of Question 4.
Road conditions deteriorating. New TRIP report documents the costs.
The road ahead. Maine Transportation Conference keynote Susan Binder talks to Maine Trails.
Homeport advantage. MBTA raises money, discovers Portland at annual convention.
Forged in steel. Main Line Fence makes inroads. By Kathryn Buxton
LBG celebrates. Louis Berger hosts Portland open house.
H.O. Bouchard helps out. Trucking firm volunteers for 2 worthy causes.
Cable news. Cable barriers can – and have – saved lives. By Ken Sweeney, MaineDOT Chief Engineer
Maine voters approved the transportation bond by a margin of almost 3-to-1. With that victory behind us, the MBTA leadership looks to a role in reshaping the future of transportation in Maine.
By Douglas Hermann, MBTA President
The people have spoken. The voters have once more said they believe that transportation investments are important to them and their communities. A whopping 73 percent of Maine voters went to the polls on November 6 and voted in support of Question 4, the $51.5 million transportation bond. By a large majority, Mainers want their transportation network fixed and they want Mainers put to work to make it happen. Investing in transportation not only fixes roads and bridges, it creates good jobs here at home. The people of Maine understand that even in these hard times, investing in transportation is a smart business move, that you have to spend money to make money. If all you’re doing is cutting, then things just get worse.
To be frank, the MBTA Board of Directors knew the outcome was anything but assured. There has been negative talk about bonds during the past several years, and it wasn’t until late October when polling data indicated voters were favoring passage by a healthy margin, that we felt more confident that the bond would pass.
I’d like to thank the MBTA Board of Directors, MBTA members and the 18 organizations that joined the Yes on Question 4 Coalition for their efforts to get this bond passed. Whether you helped recruit coalition members, wrote letters or editorials for your local paper, distributed fact sheets or just talked the bond up with your family, friends and co-workers, your help made all the difference.
In this issue of the magazine, you can read about some of those efforts, including a very successful press conference at H.O. Bouchard Inc., in Hampden. There’s nothing like one of the state’s largest freight operations, whose trucks log 4.75 million miles every year on Maine roads to give weight to the argument that bad roads cost businesses money – and that those costs are passed on to the Maine consumer. Many thanks to Brian and Jeff Bouchard, Irv Smith and Steve Whitcomb for their help.
The fact is, this year Maine had a record voter turnout all over the state and Question 4 received the most votes on the ballot by far. We hope our leaders are trying their best to improve conditions in Maine, hear just how important these investments in our roads, bridges, ports, transit, rail and aviation are to the people of Maine – and how much Mainers need the jobs this bond will create and support.
Two years ago, Governor LePage came into office promising to create jobs and to get Maine’s economy working again. Thankfully, the economy is finally showing signs of recovery. Now is a very good time to make targeted, well-planned investments in transportation to help cement those gains. This bond is relatively modest – it puts only $51.5 million toward the $150 million per year transportation funding shortfall that Maine faces over the next decade. Still, it has the potential to really help Maine’s economy in both the long and short runs. It will create or support more than 3,100 jobs, and it will enable us to make our roads and bridges safer and more efficient.
We all want to see our economy recover. We all want improved prosperity for hardworking families and business. We all want to put Maine people and Maine businesses first. By voting for Question 4, a large majority of Mainers said they believe that investing in transportation is a good way to do just that.
Finally, I would like to urge you all to set time aside for two important events in December. There is the Maine Transportation Conference on December 6at the Augusta Civic Center. MBTA co-sponsors this event with the Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) MaineDOT. This year, not only is there the keynote address by Susan Binder of Cambridge Systematics and a full day of policy and technical presentations, the ASCE will be releasing the 2012 Maine Infrastructure Report Card at the conference.
There’s also the MBTA Holiday Meeting on December 13 at the Black Bear Inn in Orono. This is the last event of MBTA’s calendar year and the wrap up of the Super Raffle fundraiser for the MBTA Educational Foundation and we again hope to have all of our 2012 scholarship winners at the event. It’s also a great chance to catch up with your MBTA friends before the New Year. I hope to see you all there.
Pulling out the stops
As Amtrak’s Downeaster completes its Freeport-Brunswick expansion, supporters eye future connections
When more than 200 dignitaries and guests boarded the Downeaster headed to Freeport and Brunswick, Maine, on November 1, they were completing the final leg of a journey begun in the late 1980s. The two new station stops represent the latest chapter in the service’s history that began when Maine rail advocates led by Wayne Davis and TrainRiders/Northeast organized to re-introduce passenger rail to the state after a hiatus of more than 50 years.
The inaugural run of the train from Boston to Brunswick boasted a virtual who’s who in Maine transportation and politics. There were two former Maine governors, John Baldacci and Angus King (who since has been elected as Maine’s newest U.S. Senator), U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe, Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Maine Commissioner of Transportation David Bernhardt, former MaineDOT Commissioners Dana Connors and David Cole and numerous other state and local officials and community leaders, as well as Nathan Soule, who worked for Maine Central Railway for 32 years and was station master in Freeport when the last train stopped running on the line in 1964.
U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe was glad to be on board the train, and it was her strategic support of the service as part of the state’s Congressional delegation, that has helped the Downeaster win key funding battles over the past several years.
“It’s exciting,” said Snowe, who most recently was instrumental in restoring $6 million in federal operating subsidies for the train that had been dropped during budget negotiations for the most recent federal transportation reauthorization earlier this year.
Snowe, for her part, focused on the economic benefit that is expected to come with train service: “I think it’s a phenomenal expansion that’s going to provide tremendous benefits to the communities of Freeport and Brunswick, not to mention the state. So I see it as a tremendous economic boon to the area.”
She noted that over the next 20 years, the train is expected to help create 800 jobs and lead to $325 million in construction contracts in the Freeport/Brunswick region, which has been suffering since the closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station in May 2011.
The Forecaster reported that Portland businesses have benefited – at least anecdotally – since the Downeaster began service between Boston and Portland in late 2001. Godfrey Wood, chief executive officer of the Portland Regional Chamber, said the consensus is passenger train travel has boosted local businesses, although it has hard to measure what that impact has been.
Sande Updegraph, Freeport station manager and former executive director of the Freeport Economic Development Corp., agreed and said it was too soon to know what the impact will be on the economy in her community. “We haven’t established any metric that can demonstrate success. All of the businesses are kind of waiting to see what traffic actually comes.”
The inaugural run to Brunswick was just one small episode in a much longer story that began almost as soon as it was announced in 2009 there would be grants for high-speed rail projects in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That was when the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) staff and board began an aggressive campaign to earn one of those grants. (NNEPRA was established by the Maine Legislature in 1995 to develop and provide passenger rail service between Maine and Boston and points within Maine and is responsible for the operation of the service.) “We were literally the very first high speed rail project to sign a contract. Ask anyone at the Federal Railroad Administration, but we practically bulldozed our way in the door,” said NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn. Quinn made about a half a dozen trips to Washington to make a case for federal investment in the Downeaster, and NNEPRA invited FRA officials to Maine to view the track and review their plans. “We did everything to show them we could do what we said we were going to do.”
That dogged determination has been the hallmark of the expansion, as NNEPRA and its partners worked through the project over the past three years, making sure it stayed within budget and was completed on schedule. VHB was the engineering contractor on the project. Pan Am Railway crews performed the track upgrades and several MBTA members were subcontractors, including Pike Industries and E.J. Prescott.
“I am enormously proud of what we have done. Everyone has risen to the occasion – the staff, the volunteers, the NNEPRA Board, the contractors. . . everyone,” said Quinn. “There have been a lot of oars in the water rowing in the same direction.”
Even before the expansion, the Downeaster service had become something of a poster child for the resurgence of passenger rail across the country. It has had a great run of success since it first launched service between Portland and Boston in 2001. In fact, the Downeaster just completed a record year with 528,292 passengers, and ridership is expected to grow by an additional 36,000 passengers annually with the expanded round-trip service that will run three times daily between Portland, Freeport and Brunswick – about 100 passengers a day, according to Quinn.
Ticket and food sales account for more than half of the Downeaster’s $15 million annual operating budget. The federal government contributes $6 million. The state pays the rest – about $1.5 million a year derived from a portion of the sales tax on rental cars.
The Maine-based service is different from typical Amtrak operations, because it was established with the operational control centered on the local level. This model of local control has been credited with winning the service exceptionally high marks for customer service. NNEPRA’s staff and seven-member board develop operating strategies, marketing programs and coordinate community relations and food service operations.
For FY 2011-12, the Downeaster’s customer satisfaction index (CSI) was among the highest in the nation – 92 percent of passengers said they were “very satisfied” with their overall experience on the train.
To earn those high marks, NNEPRA has had to struggle to address several issues, including the quality of the food concessions on board the train as a way to improve the customer experience.
The biggest issue has been running times, and NNEPRA has worked with Pan Am Railways to improve the track and increase train speeds to make the train more competitive with buses traveling in the same corridor. Still, on-time performance often comes down to factors that are outside of NNEPRA’s control. In 2011-12, the authority reported an 85 percent improvement in on-time performance over the previous year, noting that:
“Approximately 56 percent of the delay time was related to infrastructure issues and speed restrictions, primarily on the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority portion of the line. Capacity constraints and the associated interference with other trains caused 24 percent of delays. Only 1 percent of delays were associated with mechanical or equipment failures.”
Within the first weeks of service, NNEPRA’s Quinn reported that service is currently exceeding its daily ridership projections, but cautions about drawing too many conclusions from the early ridership data. She said that while more than 100 passengers have been using the service daily, only time will tell if that ridership can be sustained after the initial novelty of the service wears off.
“It’s still so early and the sample is so small,” said Quinn. “One thing I can say is that ridership has been solid from both locations, Freeport and Brunswick.
There had been some concern whether Brunswick would be strong, but ridership at both locations is evolving nicely.”
Despite the Downeaster’s recent and past successes, skeptics remain. They say trains are novelties and warn against spending federal money on passenger rail. In the face of that skepticism, NNEPRA has had to work all the harder to prove itself.
“Our priority right now is to finish this project. I believe in taking a step and getting it right, then moving it on to the next,” said Quinn. She said the immediate needs include increasing the number of sidings and establishing a maintenance facility in Brunswick, so the line can build capacity and maintain its equipment. “That’s not to say we’re not thinking long-term,” said Quinn, adding that NNEPRA also is working on developing a 20-year service plan.
From the beginning, the Downeaster has had the enthusiastic support of TrainRiders/Northeast, a volunteer organization established in 1989 to advocate for passenger rail in Maine. The group’s leader, Wayne Davis, who was instrumental in opening up discussions with Amtrak in the 1980s, continues to be a tireless supporter of passenger rail in Maine, as do the organization’s 900 pro-rail members.
Over the years, Davis and his members have pressured elected officials to keep the train service front and center in Augusta and Washington. Members even have a regular presence on the Downeaster trains, serving as goodwill ambassadors, giving directions, passing out maps and brochures and selling tickets to Boston’s subway system.
“TrainRiders plays a vital role,” said Quinn. “It’s very important having a group advocating for funding.”
Davis has said that his organization would like to see the Downeaster continue to expand its connections – inside and outside of Maine. There has been talk of extending service to the state capitol. Last August, MaineDOT completed a study that looked at a train that would connect Portland to Lewiston-Auburn and Montreal. There also is talk of service linking Portland and New York City by way of Worcester rather than Boston.
Wherever the Downeaster is headed, rail appears to have a growing national constituency that perceives trains as a worthwhile alternative in a transportation system faced with aging drivers, congested roadways and rising fuel costs. And for now, the national trends seem to bear that view out.
“We’ve had some 31.2 million passengers hit the rails this past year, up 3.5 percent during 2011. Ticket revenues, meanwhile, jumped 6.8 percent, to a record $2.02 billion,” Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman recently told the International Business Times. “People are riding Amtrak trains in record numbers across the country, because there is an undeniable demand to travel by rail.”
Maine Trails talked with one of TrainRiders/Northeast’s founders and executive director Wayne Davis about what has made the Amtrak Downeaster a success.
Maine Trails: When you first began your efforts to bring passenger rail to Maine, did you think it would take this long to get a train to Brunswick and Freeport?
Wayne Davis: That is the big question: Why did it take so long? Well, one answer is that for everything there are three states involved, so the work you do in Maine, you have to do in Massachusetts and in New Hampshire. It’s not just us, we are part of a national system. And, of course, funding is an issue.
Maine Trails: The Downeaster is one of the most successful routes in the Amtrak system. Why do you think that is?
Davis:Well, I think it was Condé Nast thatonce called the Downeaster “the most charming” train in the Amtrak system, and I think that is important. The Downeaster has really focused on what customers would like to see in terms of service. The conductors are nice, and people sing happy birthday to passengers and that makes a difference. Of course, I wish that we could say it was the fastest train or the most modern, but it’s not. But the train is unique. It is like one long, skinny Maine town, and that makes the ride enjoyable.
Maine Trails: Do you think the characteristics of the typical rider have changed over the past 10 years? How?
Davis: Initially, we had rail fans come from all over the world to ride the train and for them it was a novelty. And that changed in the middle of the rebuilding of the Maine Turnpike, and we began to get more commuters and that’s continued as the running times have been reduced. It used to take two hours and 45 minutes to Boston, but as that got down to two hours and 25 minutes, it began to make more sense for a lot of people.
And then there were the environmentally conscious people. Now, more and more, there are the young families with baby carriages and young professionals. The riders on the train are more frequent riders now, and they are choosing to ride it. For them, it’s not as much of a novelty, it’s much more natural to ride the train.
Maine Trails: How much do you think the price of gas has to do with the fact ridership that has more than doubled since the service began 10 years ago?
Davis: Ridership was up and people were choosing the train even before gas prices started going up. But yes, people are cutting back on using their autos and the miles they are driving, and more choose the train because gas is pricey.
Maine Trails: What about your “exploratory” discussions for a train from Portland to New York City by way of Worcester rather than Boston?
Davis: The mayor of Worcester contacted us in the early 1990s and said the city would like to see passenger service restored. And having a couple of trains a day connecting Portland, the second largest city in the Commonwealth, and New York would seem to bring a great benefit to our state. In my opinion a red-eye that could travel at higher speeds wouldn’t be pie-in-the-sky. It could be a winner and could thrive.
Maine Trails: Can you talk in general about the state of train travel in America? Do you think shifting attitudes about high-speed rail will slow efforts to improve and expand passenger rail across the country?
Davis: You know, it’s unfortunate, but it has been politicized. The minute the Obama administration made theannouncement that it was putting aside a bucket of money for high-speed rail, I said that the naysayers are going to hop on this and they did.
Before that, there was never a problem, and in fact, the Downeaster is one of the finest examples of bipartisanship. It began with George Mitchell, a Democrat, and Bill Cohen, a Republican, working together in the best interest of their state. I think how we’re going to see progress is in the success stories and showing people what rail can do. If we continue to make improvements in track speed, and we’re able to add more passing track, and we see a growth in business in Freeport and Brunswick from the train, we’ll continue to do well. The political process isn’t very nice, but it is very hard to argue with success. n
At a glance
About: Wayne Davis was a retired banker when he, Henry Ferne and Samuel Stokes founded TrainRiders/Northeast in 1989, a “volunteer organization dedicated to bring modern and efficient passenger rail service to Northern New England.”
Getting to ‘yes’
YES on Question 4 Coalition instrumental in bond passage
When the election season began, there were more than a few questions in play for supporters of Question 4, the $51.5 million transportation bond issue. Foremost was whether or not Maine voters, known for their strong support of transportation issues, would be swayed by the vocal anti-borrowing sentiment that has dominated state and national politics in recent years.
Now, with official election results recorded and 73 percent of voters supporting the bond, it is apparent that Mainers’ concern about crumbling infrastructure and the need for jobs trumped those arguments against borrowing. Also key was the YES on Question 4 Coalition, a group of 18 business and community organizations that came out in support of the bond issue.
“This passed by a sizable margin – and at 73 percent, it was the biggest show of voter support for transportation investment we’ve seen during the past five years,” said Maine Better Transportation Association (MBTA) President Doug Hermann. “My guess is that where voters were on the fence about the issue, hearing about job creation and federal matching funds from these community leaders did play a significant role,” he said.
The bond included $41 million for highways and bridges; $6.5 million for port infrastructure improvements in Eastport and Searsport; $2 million for capital transit investments; $1 million for the Industrial Rail Access Program (IRAP); $1.2 million for aviation facilities at Maine airports; and $300,000 for the LifeFlight Foundation for weather observation stations and helipads in rural communities. The bond funding makes Maine eligible for $105.6 million in federal, local and private matching funds.
The MBTA formed the YES on Question 4 coalition, and MBTA staff and board members did much of the heavy lifting on the public awareness campaign, recruiting coalition members, developing talking points and distributing fact sheets and speaking with the media. The coalition included several other high profile organizations, including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, whose president, Dana Connors, emerged as the most vocal source of information about the bond during the run-up to the election. There was no organized opposition.
One week out from the election, coalition members held a press conference in Hampden at H.O. Bouchard, Inc. where several members offered their views on why the $51.5 million bond would be good for Maine. Speaking in favor of the bond were the MBTA’s Hermann, Bangor Mayor Cary Weston, Hampden Town Manager Susan Lessard, Captain David Gelinas of the Penobscot Bay and River Pilots Association, and Irvin Smith of H.O. Bouchard Inc., Maine’s largest bulk carrier.
The Associated Press reported speaker Irvin Smith of H.O. Bouchard as saying in three decades, he’d never seen Maine road and bridges in “such disrepair,” that Bouchard’s trucks travel 4.75 million miles in Maine and “every mile of bad road costs the company money.”
Lessard spoke of the positive community impact and 3,100 jobs the bond would create, as well as the backlog of repairs needed on state roads in her town of Hampden, including Routes 69 and the intersection of Routes 1A and 9 where earlier this year a tractor-trailer overturned. And she said Hampden’s “waiting list” of state roads to be repaired could be replicated “in every community across the state.”
In her comments, she said the bond issue was not a “luxury,” it was a necessity that, “if we are serious about the idea of attracting and maintaining business in Maine, whether those business are service or manufacturing or industrial, we need to improve the infrastructure. By supporting this bond issue, we also support jobs – not government jobs – but jobs of all types all over the state of Maine.”
Gelinas addressed the portion of the bond that would improve Maine ports at Searsport and Eastport, including $3 million for dredging the shipping channel at Mack Point. In his statement, he pointed out the opportunity for renewable energy products to move through our ports, is spurred by Europe’s 20/20 mandate, which requires 20 percent of power generation to come from renewable sources by the year 2020. As the closest U.S. port to Europe and serving one of the most heavily forested states in the county, the renewable energy market provides Maine a huge opportunity that can be met with increased utilization of both Eastport and Searsport.
Weston, a member of the Mayors’ Coalition on Jobs and Economic Development, talked about the importance of investing in state roads, bridges, ports, transit, rail and aviation infrastructure to keep Maine businesses competitive, citizens safe and to help create jobs.
“This bond is a fiscally responsible tool with short- and long-term benefits, that will assist with crucial needs and put projects in place to help rebuild Maine’s economy,” Weston told the press.
“The event got a lot of good press, and we hope that helped the cause,” said MBTA Executive Director Maria Fuentes. The event generated positive media coverage in the Bangor Daily News, MaineBiz, the Morning Sentinel, the Portland Press Herald, WCSH-TV, WABI, the Boston Globe and several other media outlets.
FMI: The MBTA is a non-partisan organization that, since 1939, has advocated for investment in safe, efficient transportation throughout the state of Maine. To learn more, visit www.MBTAonline.org. For membership information, call 207-622-0526.
YES on Question 4 Coalition
- Action Committee of 50
- American Council of Engineering Companies of Maine
- Associated General Contractors of Maine
- Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce
- Bicycle Coalition of Maine
- Eastport Port Authority
- LifeFlight of Maine
- Maine Aggregates Association
- Maine Automobile Dealers Association
- Maine Better Transportation Association
- Maine Innkeepers Association
- Maine Municipal Association
- Maine Section, American Society of Civil Engineers
- Maine State Chamber of Commerce
- Maine Transit Association
- Mayors’ Coalition on Jobs and Economic Development
- National Association of Women in Construction, Maine Chapter
TRIP Report: Road conditions deteriorating; costs growing
At a time when Maine faces an annual transportation funding shortfall of $150 million per year, Mainers are paying almost double that in added maintenance costs due to bad roads, according to a new report by The Road Information Program (TRIP), a national transportation research organization. TRIP released its report, Maine Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility October 25 at a press conference at the Portland Jetport.
The report showed a marked deterioration in publicly maintained roads since it was last updated in 2009. Today, one-third of Maine’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition compared to 25 percent in 2009. (In 2005, that number was 20 percent.)
“The overall finding in the report is the state has high levels of deterioration in its roads, highways and major bridges, “ stated Frank Moretti, director of research and policy for TRIP. “Fourteen percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient and another 20 percent of those are functionally obsolete.”
One key finding in the report was that the extra costs that come with driving on deficient roads are being passed along to motorists in the form of higher maintenance costs. Mainers currently spend an average of $299 per year in added vehicle repairs due to bad roads compared to 2009, when TRIP last released figures about vehicle costs.
“It is clear from TRIP’s findings that every day we delay investing in our highways and bridges, we are holding up a big STOP sign on our economy,” said Doug Hermann, president of the Maine Better Transportation. He added, “Just imagine how much these bad roads are costing our businesses, considering that 81 percent of Maine goods travel over our roads.”
The report found that Maine’s most populated areas are bearing the greatest burden of bad roads. Compared with a statewide average of 30 percent poor or deficient roads, the figures are significantly higher in the Bangor (40 percent) and Portland regions (61 percent). Residents of those regions also pay the highest vehicle operating costs due to bad roads: in Portland that cost is $516 annually; in Bangor it is $375 every year. All told, TRIP reported that Maine motorists pay $301 million a year in added costs – more than double the amount MaineDOT estimates it would take over the next 10 years to address the backlog of repairs to state roads and bridges.
Overall, the state of Maine’s roads are also a big drag on Maine’s economy. “It is not [merely] a matter of importance, it is essential that we not take our eye off the value, the importance of roads, bridges and transportation. It is in so many ways the foundation of our economic system,” Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, said at the press conference.
TRIP cites MaineDOT figures calling for “an additional $150 million annually over the next decade to allow the state to meet legislative goals for improving road and bridge conditions, improving traffic safety and addressing some traffic congestion challenges.” TRIP figures are based on data collected by the Federal Highway Administration and submitted by the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) on the condition of major state and locally maintained roads and highways in the state.
Moretti said the report found a third of serious traffic crashes were due to the level of safety features on the roadway. The fatality rate on Maine non-interstate rural roads is approximately seven times higher than on other roads.
“Traffic fatalities in rural Maine are happening at a rate seven times higher than on all other roads in the state,” said Moretti. “Every death in traffic out on our highways is preventable, and it is a combination of certainly driver behavior, but also it is very much the roadway safety features that are available on that roadway.”
The problem is likely to only get worse in coming years if a funding solution is not found, according to TRIP, as the anticipated percentage increase in vehicle miles of travel in Maine by the year 2030 reaches 20 percent. TRIP stopped short of recommending ways to increase funding, but said “a substantial boost” in federal, state, and local funding, possibly in the form of bonds or a gasoline tax is needed in order to improve safety, save lives and money and improve the state’s business climate.
FMI: The full report may be downloaded at www.tripnet.org
The road ahead
Susan Binder is nothing if not realistic about the chances for change in transportation funding on the federal level. When Maine Trails caught up with her, it was less than a week out from the presidential election and pundits were calling the race too close to call. Still she cautioned strongly against putting too much hope in either candidate – or in the ability for the U.S. Congress to address the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs.
“Don’t wait for Washington to fix it. That’s a fool’s errand,” said Binder. “The answer has to come from the state and local level.”
Binder’s pessimism about federal lawmakers agreeing on a bipartisan solution that would increase funding for the nation’s aging infrastructure is founded upon experience. Currently a senior associate in Cambridge Systematics’ Transportation Planning and Management Group, Binder spent a good portion of her more than 30 years in the transportation industry working in the nation’s capital. She knows about past well-meaning efforts to find bipartisan solutions on the federal level. She served as the former deputy associate administrator for policy and governmental affairs at the Federal Highway Administration during the Bush administration. She also headed the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission that issued its seminal report to Congress in 2008, calling for a substantial overhaul of the federal Highway Trust Fund, including in how we fund and deliver transportation infrastructure and services.
If there’s any hope for a solution, said Binder, “it’s going to bubble up from people outside the Beltway.”
Binder is coming to Maine on December 6 to deliver the keynote address at the 62nd Maine Transportation Conference in Augusta. She said that after MBTA Executive Director Maria Fuentes asked her to speak, she settled on “The Road Ahead” as her topic. And that road, she believes, follows a route where local and state innovations will be the most likely sources of innovation, setting the standard for a new national transportation policy.
She also believes that rethinking user fees will be key, whether it is re-evaluating the excise tax on gas and diesel fuel or transitioning to new vehicle-based mileage fees or alternatives including open road tolling. And she said, that change will have to happen incrementally.
The first innovation will be in how transportation projects are delivered – an essential step to regain public confidence in government’s ability to spend its transportation dollars wisely. She said that recent efforts to streamline project design and delivery will need to continue.
“We need to show the public that we can squeeze every bit out of a buck and that goes hand-in-hand with accountability,” said Binder.
Binder also advocates for alternative methods, including public-private partnerships, to enable states and local governments to tackle needed infrastructure improvements. Binder noted that the U.S. is not the only country faced with these choices. Europe, too, is struggling with an aging infrastructure system, but has an advantage because their population and manufacturing centers are more concentrated, enabling them to keep their transportation costs down. Ultimately, she said it is about communication and building consensus among the electorate that transportation should be a priority.
“It’s about explaining what’s at risk if you don’t increase the fuel surcharge,” said Binder. “People have no clue what is going on. They bought into the idea that a freeway should be free.”
There’s no place like home for meeting friends, having fun and raising money for worthy causes
This year’s annual MBTA Fall Convention was a little closer to home for many members. The three-day event was held September 14-16 in South Portland at the Portland Marriott Hotel and offered an action packed schedule, talk about transportation and some serious fundraising for the organization’s favorite causes: transportation infrastructure, public awareness and scholarships.
The convention also departed from the conventional format and instead followed a new, come-as-you can format. That meant members were free to pick and choose from a wide array of weekend events, as well as whether or not to stay overnight at the hotel. For many MBTA members and their families, the format was a welcome and affordable change that gave them more flexibility to participate as work and family obligations allowed.
One of the big hits of the weekend was an afternoon reception on the bay aboard the Casco Bay Lines. The two-hour cruise took place under gorgeous fall skies and was just the ticket for conventioneers of all ages to relax and get down to the business of socializing with friends, family and colleagues. The cruise featured the MBTA’s first-ever floating cribbage tournament. Intrepid card players took over the lower deck of the Bay Mist completing the elimination tournament on the high seas and with lots of spectators stopping by to check on the action.
“There was a fair amount of trepidation whether this new type of event would work or not,” said MBTA First Vice President Tom Gorrill, who served as the Convention Committee chair. “For decades, we’ve held the traditional three-day fall getaway, but in the end I think almost everyone could agree this was a success.”
In all, 200 MBTA members, families and friends attended the annual affair, each participating in at least one or two events on the weekend schedule. Activities during the weekend included a lobster bake, a catered harbor cruise aboard Casco Bay Lines, an amphibious tour of Portland and its waterfront, a golf tournament at Sable Oaks Golf Club, the aforementioned floating cribbage tournament and a tour of the new Portland International Jetport terminal that qualified attendees for PDH credits.
There were also the annual Convention Raffle and Silent and Live Auctions that raised money for two causes close to the hearts of MBTA members: the MBTA Infrastructure Development Fund and the MBTA Educational Foundation. The Live Auction was held on the opening night of the convention at the Marriott. Kevin Tilton of Central Maine Auction Center presided over the spirited fundraiser during which members bid on everything from heavy equipment to NASCAR and Celtics tickets and spa treatments. On Saturday night, the Silent Auction wrapped up, with conventioneers getting in their final bids just before the evening’s entertainment by a doo wop quartet that had people taking to the dance floor.
The silent and live auctions raised more than $17,000 for the MBTA Infrastructure Development Fund. The fund helps the MBTA in its efforts to educate the public and community leaders on issues at the heart of the organization’s mission – advocating for judicious investment in transportation infrastructure as a means to promote safety, efficiency and economic development within the state of Maine.
That message was foremost on MBTA President Doug Hermann’s mind when he spoke on Saturday and urged his fellow members to help get out the vote on November 6 in support of Question #4, the $51.5 million transportation bond.
Hermann also thanked Tom Gorrill and the Convention Committee for their work planning the weekend, and the weekend’s sponsors whose generosity is so vital to the MBTA’s reach and influence throughout the state. n
Bob Brady, Bruce Brown, Shawn Frank, Mike O’Brien
Top Mixed Foursome
Mike Marriner, Sheila Marriner, Josh Boynton, Erik Wiberg
Closest to Pin
Longest Drive - Women
Longest Drive- Men
FIRST: Chris Miller, Leah Grabarz
SECOND: Blake Spiller, Josh “Grizzly” Adams
THIRD: Kevin Brayley, Conrad Welzel
FOURTH: Tim Ring, Kayla Stewart
Convention Raffle Winners
$300 L.L. Bean gift card: John Wardwell
$200 L.L. Bean gift card: Sheila Marriner
$100 L.L. Bean gift card: Roger Mallar
$50 Cash: Brent Hartley
$75 Cash: Roland Lavallee
$50 L.L. Bean Gift Card: Brad Lyon
$100 L.L. Bean Gift Card: Kevin Folkins
$100 Cash: Aboud Alzaim
$200 Cash: Emily Hermann
Grand Opening Reception Sponsor
Bay Cruise & Reception Sponsor
The Lane Construction Corporation
Events & Recreation Sponsors
Luncheon + Beverage Sponsors
Wyman & Simpson Inc.
Central Maine Auction Center
Haley & Aldrich, Inc.
Pike Industries, Inc
H.O. Bouchard, Inc.
Fay, Spofford & Thorndike
GZA Environmental, Inc.
A.H. Harris & Sons, Inc.
Bruce A. Manzer, Inc.
Portland International Jetport
The Rowley Agency, Inc.
Shaw Brothers Construction, Inc.
All States Materials Group
Berkley Surety Group
Ciment Quebec, Inc.
Down East Emulsions, LLC
R.J. Grondin & Sons, Inc.
Hanover Insurance Group
Jordan Equipment Co.
Maine Drilling & Blasting, Inc.
NITRAM Excavation & GC
Everett J. Prescott, Inc.
Sebago Technics, Inc.
Skillings-Shaw & Associates
Wellman Paving, Inc.
Willis Northern New England, Inc.
Forged in steel
Main Line Fence, founded in 1948 as a division of a structural steel company, continues to make inroads in guardrails and fences
By Kathryn Buxton
There’s an orderly sturdiness to the look of Main Line Fence in Cumberland. The location has been the company’s headquarters since Norris Cianchette bought the company in 1969 and moved it from cramped quarters in downtown Westbrook to nine acres on a former farmstead in the rolling countryside of this quiet southern Maine town. The long, low white offices that Norris commissioned the family construction company, Cianbro, to build are solidly utilitarian in design and construction. It is the fences on display that stand out, from the straightforward picket style to elaborate wrought iron designs.
“I was in school at Lafayette College and my mom told me, ‘Your father bought a fence company,’” recounted Rocky Cianchette. “He had sold construction equipment before that – he worked for Chadwick-BaRoss and set up their Caribou and Bangor operations.”
So Cianchette spent that summer and his school vacations over the next two years helping out with the new family business. When he graduated with a degree in anthropology in 1971, he went to work for the company full-time, but that was just meant to be temporary.
“I graduated on a Sunday and went to work on that Monday,” said Cianchette. “I thought it was only while I figured out what I wanted to do.”
Now, 43 years later, Cianchette appears to have no regrets. He said that, while he had considered going to law school, once he was in the working world he realized just how little he liked school and how much he had always liked construction.
“This fits what I like,” said Cianchette, who for the past 26 years has been president and general manager of the company.
The roots of Main Line Fence go back to 1948, when business partners Winston C. Robbins, Lloyd White and Ken MacCready decided to add a sideline to their steel erection company, Robbins & White, which they had founded with scaffolding and equipment purchased at auction from the old South Portland Shipyard after World War II. Robbins & White had been operating out of a repurposed foundry building in Westbrook. Wally Harwood, the company’s job estimator and accountant, Wyman Foster, an engineer who did work for both companies, and their superintendent, Ed Burns, ran the company from the back of the Robbins & White office (Burns left the company in 1957 to start his own company, Burns Fencing). Ken MacCready’s wife, Ruth, worked for both companies managing the office.
It was a good time to start a fence company. The construction industry was booming after the war, and there was plenty of demand. There was the boom in residential and industrial construction and people and businesses needed fences. Road construction, too, was on the rise. Even before President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956, there was a highway construction boom in New England. The first section of the Maine Turnpike had been built in late 1947; the Portland to Augusta section was completed in 1955.
When Main Line Fence needed more room for equipment and materials, the company purchased a barn and storage yard nearby on Dana Street along the Presumpscot River. Fence building required lots of back-breaking labor, and staff found efficiencies wherever they could. In the early days, crews loaded and unloaded materials, including chain link and steel for guardrail, by hand. Two of company’s first crew members, Phil Cyr and Merile Gagnon, fabricated a winch hoist for unloading material, a great time and labor saver.
As the fence side of the business grew, the steel erection business declined. One of the original three, Ken MacCready, had died in 1953, and the partnership between Winston Robbins and Lloyd White was under strain. Robbins & White had originally built steel bridges, but neglected that part of the business when Winston Robbins branched off to build ski lifts in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont during the 1960s. Even as Main Line Fence was thriving, the old Robbins & White declined and that partnership dissolved.
Ken’s widow had remarried a fisherman named Carl Smith, but continued to work for the company over the years. “Mrs. Smith,” as she was known to everyone at Main Line Fence, convinced Winston Robbins to sell the fence company in 1968. She held ownership of the company for only a year before declining health caused her to sell. Many of Main Line’s original employees stayed on with the company, and Rocky remembers the respect everyone had for her.
“She was always ‘Mrs. Smith,’” recalled Rocky. “No one ever called her by her first name.”
Over the years, Main Line Fence has installed more guardrail than any other fence company operating in Maine. During the glory days of interstate construction from the late 1950s through the 1980s, Main Line crews worked in almost every corner of the state – and throughout Northern New England. For Rocky, who in the early 1970s was just learning the business, that time spent working with crews provided invaluable experience.
It also, on occasion, gave him a great appreciation of his father, Norris, because he got to see, as few sons can, the extensive network of friends and business connections his father had established over the years working first in heavy construction and later in sales for Chadwick-BaRoss.
Rocky remembers one time working on a section of highway near Calais. It was late on a Friday when one of the crew’s trucks broke down. He called his father.
“My dad said, ‘Let me make a phone call,’” said Rocky. Soon after, help appeared and his crew was back on the road within hours. “That’s when it occurred to me that my dad knew everybody in the state of Maine and northern New England, not just in southern Maine.”
Like his father before him, Rocky has a strong sense of community and an appreciation for connections built over decades in the business. He and Main Line Fence are long-time members of the Maine Better Transportation Association. Rocky was president from 1987-1988 and prior to that was on the board and served on various committees. Main Line is a frequent donor to Camp Susan Curtis, a summer camp for economically disadvantaged children. They also have supported the Boy Scouts’ Pine Tree Council and sponsor no fewer than three Little League teams.
“We’ve had customers come in and say, ‘Hey, I used to play on your team,’” said Rocky.
When Norris retired in 1986, Rocky took the reins of the company and has seen it through major changes. As highway construction has slowed during the past two decades, the mix of business between highway, industrial-commercial and residential construction has fluctuated. Whereas guardrail installations used to account for about 70 percent of the business, today it occupies only about one-third of Main Line’s work time. Security fencing for industrial and commercial clients represents another third. Residential wood and wrought iron fencing makes up the final third. That increased focus on residential work has come as a result of increased competition and recessionary pressures on state highway budgets and a slowdown in the commercial markets. But the company’s adaptability has enabled it to keep its core workforce on board throughout leaner times.
“That last one-third of the business requires half or more of our time and resources – more marketing dollars and more time to work with the customer,” said Rocky. The company has invested in equipment to make its own decorative wooden fencing – necessary these days because residential customers are demanding more variety in style and finishes. “It’s not just stockade fence anymore,” said Rocky.
In some cases, it has also taken more in training and human resources because, he discovered, not all of his crews were able to easily transition between highway, industrial and residential installations. Some crews worked better by being specialized.
In recent years, business has been varied and the company has completed several high profile projects. Like many heavy construction firms, Main Line Fence benefited from the stimulus funding allocated for roads and bridges in 2009 and 2010, completing several large-scale guardrail projects. More recently, there has been utility work – installing fencing for the electrical power grid upgrade and the new natural gas transmission line. The company has worked for most municipalities in southern Maine and recently completed major projects in Cape Elizabeth, Yarmouth and Augusta.
One of the most challenging projects was installing cable barrier in the median of I-295 north of Portland. Rocky said it was gratifying to know that the job his company had installed had already saved lives by containing a truck that veered off the road and into the median during heavy traffic.
“It was great,” said Rocky. “It worked just the way it was supposed to.”
Today, there is a third generation of Cianchettes working in the business – Rocky’s son, Ryan, who first started working for the company when he was in high school and came back to the family business after he earned a degree in construction management at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. Like his father before him, he has learned the business from the ground up and now is a project manager and estimator for the company. Rocky is visibly proud of his son, and said he hopes that Ryan will one day take over the company from him, just as he did from his father in the mid-1980s.
He also said the company has been extraordinarily fortunate to retain a core of talented people, some who have been with the business for decades. Armand Gagnon is the longest-serving employee. He started with the company when he was just 19 – three years before Norris Cianchette bought the company. Gagnon, whose uncle was one of the company’s original employees, now works as a machine operator, welder and mechanic at the Cumberland headquarters and has been with the company for 46 years. Other long-timers include Vice President Glen York (43 years) and Ray Clark (39 years) and Jack Kinne (33 years), both foremen.
Experience has resulted in a good safety record, as well. During the past two years, the company celebrated 100,000 hours without a reportable work time injury. That is no mean feat, considering that Main Line completes more than 500 different jobs in a typical year. “We comlete about a dozen projects every week, so that means our crews have to be sharp and focused,” said Rocky.
Another advantage of having worked decades in the business is an appreciation for the important things – including workmanship and quality.
Rocky talked about installing guardrail on the reconstruction of I-295 from Brunswick to Augusta. Main Line had installed the original guardrail on the road in 1977, and one of the original crew members on that job helped out with the reconstruction.
“We looked at the guardrail we were taking out, and it had held up well,” said Rocky. “If they hadn’t been raising the roadbed, it could have stayed there a lot longer.”
A natural asset
By Barry Sheff, P.E.
Like many New England mill towns, Lisbon has faced significant economic and community challenges as manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Its population has changed, the average income is below the state average, and many residents now commute farther to work, though Lisbon is still one of the youngest communities in Maine. Despite its difficulties, Lisbon has actively pursued projects that foster a sense of community and has been able to leverage grant money to accomplish goals beyond what it could achieve alone.
The latest project on the list is the Androscoggin River Trail, a bike and pedestrian trail that skirts the beautiful Androscoggin River for much of its length. “The trail provides a number of benefits,” explained Lisbon Town Engineer Ryan Leighton. “It completes the alternative transportation connection between the three most developed areas of town, including a direct connection between Main Street in Lisbon Falls and Lisbon Village, and is very close to Lisbon’s public schools. The easy access provided by the trail to scenic recreation right in town is also a big benefit.”
The new trail extends just over two miles from the existing Papermill and Ricker Farm Trails at its north end, and terminates in Lisbon Falls Village within sight of the public library and a short walk from a community center building. The trail terrain varies and includes a section that follows a rail line, a section along the shore of the Androscoggin River, and a final section that passes near three separate schools. Because of its proximity to local schools and the fact that it creates a single, continuous alternative transportation corridor between several densely-developed areas of town, the trail project was eligible for funding through the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) Quality Community Program. During the conceptual phase of the project, the project team evaluated the Quality Community Program and determined the project was a good candidate in two funding categories: Transportation Enhancement and Safe Routes to School.
Woodard & Curran, the firm responsible for project planning, design and permitting, prepared the grant application to support the town, and secured approximately $1.4 million of the total $1.7 million project cost; $300,000 in matching funds were provided by the town.
“The town’s Trails Commission was active in the planning and design process”, says Project Manager David Senus, P.E., L.P.A., “and their collaboration with us will make the trail a great asset for the community.”
The commission expressed strong interest in aligning the trail close to the Androscoggin River to promote the aesthetic and recreational opportunities offered by the river. To accomplish this goal, the design team needed to consider a number of physical, regulatory and land rights issues, including impacts to natural resources, the rail line along the edge of the river, and land ownership rights associated with railroad property. Working with the commission, the town engineer, MaineDOT and MaineDEP, the project team developed a design that crosses the rail and closely follows the river’s edge for roughly one-quarter of its length.
With funding secured, the hard work began to finalize the route, obtain permits and ensure the end result matched the town’s vision.
Permitting wasn’t a straightforward process. In addition to the environmental permits, the project required ntwo separate at-grade rail crossings approved by MaineDOT. Fortunately, everything lined up thanks to sound engineering and continuous support from the town.
Woodard & Curran anticipates construction of the project will be completed in 2013, and looks forward to celebrating the opening of the trail with members of the Lisbon’s Trails Commission, the public and the funding agencies.
About the author: Barry Sheff, P.E., is a senior vice president at Woodard & Curran. He was principal-in-charge on the Androscoggin River Trail project. Learn more, www.woodardcurran.com
Good to go
H.O. Bouchard lends efforts to 2 worthy causes
Staff and family members at H.O. Bouchard have been involved in two high profile community projects recently: Hurricane Sandy relief and fundraising for breast cancer research.
Soon after Hurricane Sandy, a group of Waldo County citizens headed by a local Girl Scout troop formed and went to work collecting aid items for victims in the Long Island area of New York City. Hurricane Sandy hit the New York region in late October, and parts of Long Island were among the hardest hit.
According to the Penobscot Bay Pilot, donations of daily care products, home supplies, clean clothing, blankets, sheets, coats, hats, gloves, baby supplies, non-perishable food, toilet paper, pet food/supplies, and personal hygiene supplies and more came pouring in.
H.O Bouchard, Inc. of Hampden donated a truck and fuel to take the goods to New York. Dysart’s donated use of the trailer.
Jeff Bouchard, the company’s operations manager, shared the driving with Raymond Tucker. (Tucker’s daughter is part of a troop of local Girl Scouts who organized the effort.) The trip involved a quick turnaround: Bouchard and Tucker left at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 10 and returned at 8 p.m. the next day.
“We very rarely, if ever make deliveries to Long Island,” said Bouchard. “It was a long day, but it was worth it. We switched off driving. More than 50 people were there unloading us, so it worked out very nicely. They really appreciated it, and we were glad to help out!”
Twenty-two H.O. Bouchard employees, family members and friends took part in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure event on the Bangor Waterfront on September 16.
The H.O. Bouchard team, Trucking for Ta-Tas, managed to raise $2,015 this year with generous support from H.O. Bouchard Inc., Comstock Woodlands Corp., Bangor Truck & Trailer and many generous individuals.
With their bright pink T-shirts emblazoned with the team’s slogan, the team’s enthusiasm and sense of humor brought an upbeat note to a serious subject – ending breast cancer. On the team were Jordan Cust, Melinda Cust, Brian Bouchard, Jeff Bouchard, Libbie Bouchard, Sue Brooks, Stephen Cust, Lynn Elwell, Yvonne Gould, Leanne Leigh, Nathan Leigh, Chris Leighton, Gene Look, Kathy Look, Irv Smith, Justin Smith, Debra Taylor, Jessica Taylor, Aaron Walker, Scott Wilson, Hannah Wood and Jennifer Wood.
While most team members walked the 5K course, Trucking for Ta-Tas had two timed runners: Hannah Wood, Gene Look’s granddaughter, and Jordan Cust (team captain) who works in Bouchard’s parts department. Hannah and Jordan had running times of 26:32 and 31:09, respectively. Several team members have made it their goal to be competitive runners in next year’s Race for the Cure.
H.O. Bouchard, Inc. operates one of the Northeast’s largest and most diversified tank trailer and flat bed fleets for heavy transport of energy fuels, industrial raw materials, and other products.
FMI: To learn more about the Race for the Cure in Maine, visit www.komenmaine.org. For more information about H.O. Bouchard Inc., visit www.hobouchard.com
New cable barrier systems reduce costs – and save lives
By Ken Sweeney, MaineDOT Chief Engineer
How could someone possibly lose their lane discipline, cross a grass median and end up in the opposing lane? Crashes like this involve any of a variety of driver issues: unsafe speed, including during periods of heavy rain when the vehicle is susceptible to hydroplaning; alcohol; fatigue; and driver medical episodes. The driver may have tried to avoid a problem in their lane and, as a result, lost control. Whatever the reason, that fast-moving vehicle now traveling in the wrong direction toward high-speed traffic is a very big problem.
Interstate highways have median dividers to better separate opposing traffic flows. However, on occasion, cross median crashes do occur. This type of crash is not that frequent, but typically are among the worst crash scenarios because they are high-speed, head-on collisions. They are frequently devastating, often with fatal results.
To help prevent these crashes, there have been several roadside barrier systems developed, such as w-beam guardrail or what seems even better – concrete barriers. These rigid barrier systems have shortcomings, though, and vehicles tend to ricochet off them, bouncing them back into traffic causing additional hazards. Rigid barrier systems also are expensive, and w-beam guardrails, in particular, require rigorous maintenance and repairs.
The drawbacks of common barrier systems led MaineDOT to install median cable barriers on narrow sections of unprotected interstate median where cross median crashes are most likely to occur. Most often these crashes involve passenger vehicles, but in two recent Maine crashes, tractor-trailers were involved. Although the median cable barrier is not designed for heavy tractor-trailer loads, the system performed well in both cases, preventing the trucks from crossing into opposing traffic and therefore, probably saving lives.
Cable median barriers are more forgiving than traditional concrete and w-beam barriers and can be modified to be effective on sloping terrain. The posts are light, designed to bend and break, if needed, with the tensioned cable being the structural element that deflects the wayward vehicle and normally guides the car along the roadside. Cable barriers generally reduce collision forces and that translates to less severe injuries for the drivers and passengers along Maine roadways.
Installation costs for these cable systems are lower than standard w-beam systems, and repairs can be made more easily, quickly and inexpensively. The cable barriers also do not block blowing and drifting snow and do not contribute to snow build-up along side of roads.
Most importantly, the cable barriers greatly increase safety. No system will provide 100 percent protection due to the varying physical dynamics of a fast moving vehicle. Nevertheless, national studies, as well as case histories here in Maine, documented that these systems have saved lives.
In a Washington state study, data showed that annual cross median fatal crashes declined from 3.00 to 0.33 fatalities per 100-million miles of vehicle travel, while annual disabling accidents were reduced 50 percent. The overall benefits of cable median barriers were calculated to be $420,000 per mile annually.
North Carolina has installed hundreds of miles of cable median barriers since 1998 and estimates that between 1999 and 2005 more than 95 cross-median crashes were prevented, saving more than 145 lives. Wisconsin also demonstrated significant safety benefits, where a total of 181 miles of cable median barrier has been installed on state highways. The study’s 2009 update showed a 59 percent reduction in fatal and serious injury collisions.
While cable median barriers do have low installation costs, they can require more frequent maintenance due to the number of minor crashes that result in system damage. Minor crashes may become more frequent, since vehicles that may have stopped in the median after losing control in their lane now have the potential to strike the cable system. The cost of a crash generally is low, and is a worthy trade off when you consider the outcome of lower severity crashes versus a high-speed head-on collision.
Of course, the best way to avoid crash-producing situations in the first place is for drivers to avoid distractions, remain alert, and drive in a manner that keeps their vehicles under control and in their own lane.