Maine Trails, August - September '13
Inside Cover
President's Message
Cover Story
The freshman class
Aroostook on track
Going for the green
Transformers
Legislative session = success!

President’s Message
Stepping up. Thanks to our elected leaders who have made transportation investment a priority. By Thomas Gorrill.
 
Cover Story
The November surprise. Maine voters will get to vote on a transportation bond November 5.
 
Maine News
The freshman class. MBTA’s Maria Fuentes interviews six new members of the legislature’s Transportation Committee.
 
Association News
Aroostook on track. Maine Northern Railway’s Ian Simpson speaks at Aroostook meeting.
Going for the green. Golf Classic raises $23,000 for MBTA Infrastructure Development Fund.
 
Member News
Transformers. Messer Truck Equipment turns trucks into tools.
 
MaineDOT View
Legislative session = success! A formula fix, a new work plan and a bond referendum. By David Bernhardt.


Stepping up

Thanks to our elected leaders who have been able to set aside ideological differences and work toward solutions

By Thomas Gorrill, MBTA President
 
These are difficult times for our state and our country, with deep ideological divides getting in the way of getting things done. Sometimes it seems as if party stance trumps practicality and that political compromise has become an endangered art. Too often this brings the whole show to a grinding halt and, as we have seen in recent years, our roads and bridges continue to crumble, as a result.
 
That is why we are grateful to be able to say “thank you” to Maine’s elected officials who recently have stepped up in one way or another on behalf of transportation. Specifically, I would like to thank Senator Susan Collins, Governor Paul LePage and Maine Senate President Justin Alfond and House Speaker Mark Eves.
 
These elected officials did what we always hope our leaders will do when we elect them. They worked hard to keep lines of discussion open and create opportunities for compromise.
 
To some, compromise is looked at as backing down from belief, instead of constructive deal making. To the heroes I write about in this column, compromise is the grease necessary for any important public endeavor. So thanks to those politicians who are working for positive change. We greatly appreciate your efforts.
 
Senator Collins was the lone Republican supporting the $54 billion transportation and housing bill defeated in the Senate this summer. Collins, a key author of that bill, found herself in a battle against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) who worked hard to see the bill die. Although Collins had lined up several of her fellow Republicans to support the compromise measure, those votes evaporated under intense pressure from McConnell. The measure fell six votes short of the 60 required to overcome a GOP filibuster. Collins was the only Republican to support moving ahead.
 
According to the Associated Press, Republicans killed the bill because it exceeded spending limits required under the automatic budget cuts enacted earlier this year and known as “the sequester.” Some also have speculated there were other reasons, including the need for McConnell to take a hard line stance in order to position himself better against an upcoming primary battle.
 
Thank you, Senator Collins, for bravely stepping up and doing the right thing. Your constituents back in Maine truly appreciate that you have our best interests at heart. We hope that, in time, your colleagues will come to appreciate how important transportation – and compromise – is, if we are to keep our roads paved, our bridges safe, our buses operating and our economy strong.
 
Our second round of thanks goes to our elected leaders right here in Maine. And I am pleased to report the outcome at the capitol building was decidedly better for transportation this August, despite a rocky start. At question was whether a $100 million transportation bond would be passed in time to go to voters this November. The bond is a critical piece of funding for the current MaineDOT three-year work plan, and there was concern that the department would have to cut $100 million in projects or more if the legislature did not pass it in time.
 
In June, the legislature adjourned without addressing a bond. The hold up proved to be differing views on just how much Maine should be bonding and where those scarce dollars should go. The Democratic legislative leadership in Maine’s Senate and House wanted more bond funding. Governor LePage wanted less. And, for what seemed like an agonizingly long time, it appeared those differences were too great to overcome. But our leaders kept working at it and found a compromise.
 
The final $149.5 million compromise bond package includes $100 million for highways, bridges and multimodal facilities, such as ports. The package also contains $14 million to maintain and upgrade Maine’s armories, $15.5 million for investment in community college facilities; $15.5 million for Maine’s university system; and $4.5 million for the Maine Maritime Academy.
 
The bonds will be presented to voters as five separate bond questions. Transportation holds the number three spot, and this is how the ballot question will read:
 
Question 3 (Bond Issue): Do you favor a $100,000,000 bond issue for reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities or equipment related to ports, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation and transit, to be used to match an estimated $154,000,000 in federal and other funds?
 
This is a major triumph for transportation, and we again thank Governor LePage, Senator Alfond and Representative Mark Eves for standing up for what they believe in and for being willing to compromise. To quote the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you find you get what you need.”
 

Finally, I would like to thank our MBTA members who spoke and wrote to their legislators urging support of the bond. As we have found time and time again, our leaders like to hear from us. They need to know what we think and why it is important to our families and our communities. So thank you for your efforts and for being heard. Now, let’s get to work. We have a bond to pass!

 


November surprise

After the Maine Legislature adjourned without debating bonds, many believed Mainers wouldn’t have the chance to weigh in on a transportation bond this fall. They were wrong, and now it is up to Maine voters.

 
When the Maine Legislative session ended in June without passing a transportation bond, it looked as if the MaineDOT 2013-2014 work plan was going to take a very big hit – a $100 million hit, to be exact.
 
That was the amount of the bond that Governor Paul LePage had proposed earlier in the year and which remained sidelined in the Appropriations Committee along with several other bond proposals submitted by members of the legislature at the beginning of the 126th Maine Legislature. At issue was a difference of opinion between the governor and legislative leadership about how much and what kinds of things Maine should be bonding.
 
But after weeks of often heated debate, the governor and leaders reached a compromise during the waning days of summer, and on August 29, the legislature gathered for a special session. The entire bond package – five bonds totaling $149.5 million – was passed with more than the two-thirds votes required in each chamber. The $100 million transportation bond represents the largest of five bonds that will be on the November 5 ballot in Maine.
 
MaineDOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Van Note was quick to note that the size the bond, as well as the level of support it received in both houses, is a testament to the strong support transportation investments have and the power of transportation as a non-partisan issue to bring elected officials together.
 
“There were only seven negative votes in the House and no negative votes in the Senate,” said Van Note. “Transportation traditionally has received very wide bipartisan support. Everyone knows that they need good roads and bridges.”
 
 “We were all thrilled when the bond was sent to voters,” said MBTA President Tom Gorrill, speaking of the MBTA board of directors’ reaction to what some have referred to as “the November surprise.” He said that he and other transportation advocates had become resigned to the fact that Maine voters might have to wait till June for a voter decision on bonds, despite broad support from all ranges of the political spectrum. Gorrill said he had spoken with several legislators on both sides of the aisle at the MBTA Aroostook County in early August, and all of them had expressed their strong support for the bond.
 
“There was recognition of how important a transportation bond would be to the economy of a rural state like Maine that really depends on its roads and the important jobs that maintaining those roads supports,” said Gorrill. The $100 million bond has the potential to create or support 1,400 or more good paying jobs in the transportation and construction industries, a sector of the economy that has been hit particularly hard during the recent recession. Recovery in the industry has been slow. Construction unemployment this spring was as high as 26 percent in Maine, and still lags behind every other major industry category in the state.
 
When matching funds – estimated at $154 million in federal and other monies – are factored in, the bond has the potential to put more than twice that number of Mainers to work.
 
“We really need those jobs,” said Gorrill. He said his own firm, Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers, experienced staff cutbacks at the height of the recession and since has been reluctant to hire new personnel, because the transportation funding outlook remains uncertain.
 
“This compromise bond really sends a message to businesses like ours that Maine’s economy could be seeing some improvements,” said Gorrill.
 
‘Transformative’ and essential
 
Before the legislative vote and when the future of the bond was still in limbo, one of the biggest concerns among transportation advocates was the effect on MaineDOT’s current work plan if a bond did not go to voters. In June, the department released a list of capital projects (63 highway and 58 bridge projects) in the work plan that were at risk if a $100 million bond was not passed. Those projects include a $7.4 million highway reconstruction project planned for a critical 5.9-mile section of Route 302 in western Cumberland County, a $14 million reconstruction of a section of Route 3 in Bar Harbor, the $4.2 million Somesville Bridge replacement on a high traffic route that connects Standish and Limington, and the $1.3 million replacement of the Meddybemps Bridge over the Dennys River on Route 191.
 
“Without the bond, this work plan would have been largely devoid of any capital investment,” said MBTA Executive Director Maria Fuentes. “The majority of these are bread-and-butter highway and bridge projects on priority corridors – capital projects that are the real guts of the plan and are essential for Mainers traveling back and forth to work and school every day.”
 
There were also projects that MaineDOT’s Van Note calls “transformative.” Chief among those are plans to expand the International Marine Terminal in Portland. The bond funding will extend a rail line to the terminal and enable the purchase of additional land to help the port capitalize on its recent success in convincing Icelandic shipper Eimskip to establish Portland as its North American base. Van Note said the state is hopeful it will be able to attract other shippers to the port, but sees the rail connectivity and expanded port capacity that the bond funding will provide as critical to continued port growth.
 
“Without the bond, we would never be able to go to the next level,” said Van Note.
 
Hardworking capital
 
Equally important, according to MBTA’s Fuentes, are bond allocations for SHIP (Small Harbor Improvement Program) and IRAP (Industrial Rail Access Program), two immensely popular and effective MaineDOT programs that for more than 10 years have sparked economic development in communities by encouraging local and private investments.
 
“In dollars, these are relatively modest investments on the part of MaineDOT. Still, these programs have the power to bring enormous benefits to the businesses and towns where they are located,” said Fuentes. “SHIP is all about revitalizing Maine’s waterfronts and IRAP extends rail to areas and shippers that otherwise would not have access to low-cost freight rail service. These are investments we need to be making.”
 
Both Fuentes and Van Note also mentioned the funds that will go to one of MaineDOT’ s newer partnership ventures, the Municipal Partnership Initiative (MPI), a matching fund program that promotes partnerships with municipalities, public utilities, private businesses and other entities. The bond has set aside an additional $5 million for this program that was established in 2011 and has generated approximately $17 million in public-private investments for state and state-aid highways – all with MaineDOT grants of $500,000 or less.
 
Fuentes characterizes the bond funding as “hardworking” with few frills and the potential to make a positive impact in communities throughout the state with programs like SHIP, IRAP and MPI and strategic investments in priority roads and bridges.
 
“MaineDOT’s work plan is very streamlined, and to make sure it gets done, we need to pass this bond,” said Fuentes. “It will be very important for MBTA members to help drum up support for the bond. Voters need to know that this funding is important to maintaining Maine’s transportation network and keeping our roads and bridges safe.”
 
What is in Question 3: The Transportation Bond?
 
Highways – $44 million
Provides funds to construct, reconstruct or rehabilitate up to 63 different bondable highway projects in Priority 1, Priority 2 and Priority 3 corridors, including $5 million for the Municipal Road Partnership which provides matching funds for local partnership initiatives and the Secondary Road Program Fund.
 
Bridges - $27 million
Provides funds to replace and rehabilitate bridges, including funding for 58 bondable bridge projects currently included in the MaineDOT 2013-2014 work plan.
 
Multimodal - $24 million
Provides funds for facilities or equipment related to ports, harbors, marine transportation, aviation, freight and passenger railroads and transit that preserve public safety or otherwise have demonstrated high economic value for transportation, including property acquisition and capital improvements at the International Marine Terminal. MaineDOT’s tentative plan for use of the funds are as follows:
 
- International Marine Terminal: $9 million
Including property acquisition and extension of rail line to provide access to the terminal in order to reduce the cost of transportation of goods and services statewide.
 
- Portland Harbor Dredging and Fish Exchange: $4 million
To complete the dredging that will expand the bay’s shipping capacity and allow Maine to remain competitive. Also includes infrastructure upgrades to the Portland Fish Exchange.
 
- Other port and related intermodal improvements: $3 million
Marine-freight investments for land-side and marine improvements to coastal public marine facilities.
 
- Industrial Rail Access Program: $1.5 million
Funding for the successful public-private partnership program that encourages economic development with the expansion of rail access for commercial and industrial shippers.
 
- Passenger- Transit and rail: $4 million
Funding for Maine public transit and rail infrastructure that will qualify the state for available federal matching funds.
 
- Aviation: $1.5 million
Funding for Maine’s small airports that will qualify the state for federal matching funds.
 
- Small Harbor Improvement Program: $1 million
Funding for the popular matching grant program that promotes economic development, public access, improved commercial fishing opportunities and works to preserve, and create, infrastructure at facilities in tidewater and coastal municipalities.
 
What else is on the November 5 ballot?
 
On Tuesday, November 5, the transportation bond will share the ballot with four other bond questions including:
Question #1: $14 million for renovation of the state’s armories
 
Question #2: $15.5 million for building upgrades at state universities
 
Question #4: $4.5 million for a public-private partnership to build a new science facility at the Maine Maritime Academy
 
Question #5: $15.5 million to upgrade buildings, classrooms and laboratories at the seven campuses of the Maine Community College System

 


The freshman class
MBTA’s Maria Fuentes talks about transportation with six Maine House members – all freshmen on the legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation.

 
Maria Fuentes: This is your first term on the Transportation Committee. Did you ask to be on this committee, and if so, why did you want to serve on Transportation?
 
Representative McLean: Yes, I did ask to be on the committee. I have a master’s in public policy, with transportation as an interest area. There is a direct correlation between transportation projects and economic development, and I don’t mean just roads. Reducing congestion, enhancing our quality of place, moving freight more efficiently – these are all part of improving our economy. For example, if we want to reduce congestion and reduce the cost of repairing our system, we need to take a wholesale look at the costs of moving goods and people. This is a great committee to be on, with good people to work with.
 
Representative Nutting: I asked to serve on the Transportation Committee. This is my seventh term in the House and I have served on a number of committees. I asked to serve on Transportation because it deals with issues that are important to the everyday lives of Maine citizens and, because it operates with its own separate budget, it is a unique part of Maine government.
 
Representative Powers: This was one of my three committee choices, more from urging of my constituents than my own personal choice. I have enjoyed this committee assignment immensely.
 
Representative Turner: Ask may not be a strong enough word. I fought to be on this committee. District 11 encompasses a major portion of eastern Maine, and transportation is vital to its economic well-being.
 
Representative Verow: Yes, I did want to be on this committee, because of some transportation projects in my district that are of particular interest. A primary one is the extension of I-395 from Brewer to Route 9. Now that the larger trucks can go on the interstate, they get slowed down when they come to Brewer. A bypass would create an efficient shortcut and would steer the trucks away from Main Street. It is also important to the town of Holden. It makes much more sense to have the trucks go on the roads that were designed to carry them, than it is to have them go through downtowns. I am also interested in returning passenger rail service to Bangor. Until the 1950’s, you could take a train from Bangor to Boston. With the extension of the Downeaster to Freeport and Brunswick, it makes it more feasible to continue north. I would like to call for a planning study to answer questions about how we can, incrementally, continue to bring passenger rail northward. Let’s talk about it. I have heard from many constituents who are very interested in using passenger rail.
 
Representative Werts: I did ask to be on this committee because I felt there were many things that could benefit my community that would be dealt with by this committee. I was not disappointed, but I wish we could have done more.
 
Maria Fuentes: When your constituents talk to you about transportation, what do they most often talk about?
 
Representative McLean: Mostly about roads. More recently, I have heard from constituents about safety, due to the Lac Megantic tragedy. Not everyone is familiar with how our transportation infrastructure is funded and how expensive it is to maintain our roads and bridges. They just know that they are driving over potholes. I have been talking to constituents and trying to help educate them about our funding stream and why it is so important that we look at alternative funding mechanisms. They know they are paying taxes, but it is helpful to provide them with some context about what the needs are and where the money goes.
 
Representative Nutting: They talk about the poor condition of their roads and especially about railroad crossings that are in dire need of repair. If they have recently had improvements done on roads near them, they like to mention that as well.
 
Representative Powers: They talk about the most significant infrastructure concerns in my district.
 
Representative Turner: Roads, or more correctly, the condition of the roads.
 
Representative Verow: Typically, my constituents talk to me about the condition of the highways. I hear positive feedback on roads that have been improved, but there are others that need work. Route 2 from Bangor to Hermon is one that comes to mind.
 
Representative Werts: Roads and bridges always come up, but there are also questions around why we do not have commuter rail and passenger rail through here.

Maria Fuentes: The Maine Legislature identified 19 percent of all public roads as the highest priority roads because they carry 70 percent of all traffic. Of those, 1,472 miles or 34 percent are in poor or unacceptable condition. The Maine Legislature agreed to bring these roads up to at least fair condition. What would be a reasonable time frame for meeting this commitment?
 
Representative McLean: It really depends on the will of the elected officials. There is currently a lack of willingness to invest in public infrastructure, whether we talk about the fuel tax, or overhauling the tax system. It depends on how quickly the Legislature deems it a priority. If the Transportation Committee had its way, we would want to do it quickly. Because it is important not only to the economy, but also for citizen’s safety and for moving freight. Those who hear day in and day out that our roads and bridges are crumbling need to make the case to our constituents and legislators about why this needs to be a top priority for our state.
 
Representative Nutting: I defer to the plans laid out by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
 
Representative Powers: Even after one term on this committee, I have no idea what is a reasonable time frame. I will listen to the experts on their recommendations.
 
Representative Turner: We need to continue to work on this goal each budgetary cycle so that we can make sure that we accomplish this in the shortest time that is fiscally prudent.
 
Representative Verow: We do need to bring our roads up to fair condition. We all use the roads, motorcycles, cars, bikes, buses . . . we need to bring them to satisfactory condition to satisfy the traveling public.
 
Representative Werts: The best answer I have is “as soon as possible.” Obviously the department would have to give us that answer when they see how much we can support through funding.
 
Maria Fuentes: According to national statistics, the performance of Maine’s state highway system has slipped from 15th in the nation to 32nd in the last decade. One in every six Maine bridges is considered structurally deficient. MaineDOT says they need another $110 million a year in capital funding to reverse these statistics. Where should this funding come from?
 
Representative McLean: We really need to overhaul the way we fund roads and bridges. We should export some of the costs to our many visitors, since they use the system. Many other states find ways to do that. Let’s look at what other states are doing. I don’t have one specific solution, but it will certainly take a concerted effort, a fresh look and a new approach.
 
Representative Nutting: See answer to the next question.
 
Representative Powers: I firmly believe the legislature and the transportation committee should be reviewing options of increasing revenues for the DOT.
 
Representative Turner: During these tough times raising the fuel tax would only put more of a burden on the people of this state. We need to look at the total budgetary spending and allocate state money to where it is needed the most!
 
Representative Verow: We really need to have a healthy debate on how to fund our transportation network. Should it come from the fuel tax? Should the state look at indexing again? I know some states are looking at VMT (Vehicle Miles Travelled). I would like to explore in more detail how exactly that would work. However, we should also be encouraging conservation, and more carpooling.
 
Representative Werts: We should be looking at every revenue stream available to us. This is just not acceptable and needs to be addressed.
 
Maria Fuentes: Federal fuel taxes have not been raised since 1993, and the Federal Highway Trust Fund is no longer self-sufficient. One underlying issue is whether it is best to support transportation with user fees or rely on general funds. What is your philosophy on this issue?
 
Representative McLean: I think we need to do both. We definitely need to get funding from users, whether through a toll, excise tax or another form. But our roads and bridges are a public investment. Whether or not I drive on every road in the state is irrelevant. We all benefit from good roads everywhere in our state because we don’t live in a vacuum. We need the state to invest in the public enterprise but also need those who use the roads heavily to share that burden.
 
Representative Nutting: I think that support for transportation needs to come from a mix of user fees and general funds. Certainly those who use our infrastructure more should pay more, but everyone benefits from transportation improvements. Virtually everything we consume is transported to its final point of use.
 
Representative Powers: Given the significant needs for Maine's infrastructure, I believe we must rely more heavily on fees.
 
Representative Turner: Same as the previous question.
 
Representative Verow: I believe user fees are the way to go, because the General Fund has many responsibilities, and it is hard to have that fund also be responsible for highways and bridges.
 
Representative Werts: Obviously. I would like to see the federal taxes increased, but that is not likely to happen. So we are left with what we have until we design another strategy.
 
Maria Fuentes: Did you support sending a transportation bond to the voters to fund highways, bridges, ports, buses, airports, rail and trails?
 
Representative McLean: Yes.
 
Representative Nutting: I support the bond issue that will appear on the ballot this November. It is part of the overall plan to maintain and improve our roads. I would like to see the budget increased gradually so that, at some point in the future, the needs would be met in the transportation budget without the need for bonding.
 
Representative Powers: I do support sending bonds to the voters.
 
Representative Turner: Yes, I believe in bonding for large capital projects.
 
Representative Verow: Yes!
 
Representative Werts: Absolutely, the voters have supported taking care of our transportation needs as they know they are important.
 
Maria Fuentes: Maine’s gas tax is set at 31.5 cents per gallon. A pickup truck getting 15 miles per gallon pays 2.1 cents to travel a mile, but a Prius getting 45 miles per gallon pays one-third that amount to travel a mile. How would you address this growing inequity built into the current motor fuel tax?
 
Representative McLean: This is tough because, as a matter of public policy, I do not want to disincentivize good purchases, such as the purchase of a fuel-efficient vehicle. The challenge is to incentivize the purchase, but at the same time be sure they pay their fair share. I am not sure how to do that at this point, but I look forward to working with experts in the field over the coming year to develop a strategy to make a fair and equitable system to pay for our transportation needs.
 
Representative Nutting: We need a study to look at ways to address future transportation funding. While technology exists that could allow additional charges to vehicles that get better gas mileage, the solution needs to be well vetted and ultimately something that most Mainers think is fair. This is a difficult issue and one that requires a lot of input and discussion. That is why I suggest that we need a study.
 
Representative Powers: I have no answers to this difficult question. We discussed this issue at length in committee meetings, and, clearly, much more discussion is required to reach an acceptable solution.
 
Representative Turner: If there were an easy answer to this question, it would already be solved. I look forward to working with the committee, DOT and all stake holders.
 
Representative Verow: I am not sure how to address that. It is difficult to penalize people who are trying to do the right thing by lowering their consumption. We want to encourage people to use less oil.
 
Representative Werts:It is hard to punish a Prius owner for using a 45- mile-per-gallon vehicle when that’s what we are asking them to do. I have read some interesting information on Vermont concerning gas tax and sales tax that I think we should explore. We have got to come up with other ways to fund the highway fund other than the gas tax.
 
Maria Fuentes: The 125th Maine Legislature repealed motor fuel tax indexing. While income and sales taxes grow with inflation now the motor fuel tax will not. Should this decision be revisited?
 
Representative McLean: While I wasn’t here when indexing was taken out of the equation, I do know that increasing the gas tax alone is not the answer. Again, what we do need to look at is the whole picture. We need to take a larger look at costs, needs, who’s using the system, who’s not paying enough, etc., in the context of a broader policy discussion.
 
Representative Nutting: The repeal of indexing was the correct thing to do. Politicians should be willing to present their case for any increases in the fuel tax and take the heat or the credit for doing so. Automatic increases allow politicians to simply shrug their shoulders and say “What could I do? It was automatic. That’s the law.” We should take responsibility for our actions and let the voters decide if we did the right thing.
 
Representative Powers: Yes.
 
Representative Turner: Not at this time.
 
Representative Verow: I think it merits discussion. We should revisit the issue, and see whether it makes sense or not at this time.
 
Representative Werts: We should revisit it, yes.
 
Maria Fuentes: As we negotiate with New Hampshire over sharing the cost of bridge construction between our two states, do you think we should ask New Hampshire to pay for the cost of their residents using the Downeaster that Maine is presently financing?
 
Representative McLean: Yes, I think they should pay for part of it.
 
Representative Nutting: Absolutely. New Hampshire should be frequently reminded that they are not paying what they should. Short of not stopping at their stations, which I understand is not a viable solution, all we can do is appeal to their sense of fairness . . . frequently.
 
Representative Powers: Yes.
 
Representative Turner: Yes, I believe that New Hampshire residents should pay a proportional amount of the cost.
 
Representative Verow: Yes, definitely.
 
Representative Werts: Yes.

Maria Fuentes: Maine made a major investment in saving freight rail service to Aroostook by entering into a public-private partnership. Are you encouraged with the results of this partnership so far?
 
Representative McLean: I understand that there is a significant increase in rail traffic, which is good for business and good for roads and bridges. We need to preserve and improve our rail lines, as they take some of the stress off of the rest of the system. Investment in freight rail is definitely a great investment. This was an especially good investment for Aroostook County and northern Maine. They have seen an uptick in traffic, and anything that we can do to support business in northern Maine while, at the same time, taking stress off of our roads and bridges is a good idea.
 
Representative Nutting: I am encouraged, and I understand that it means a great deal to the businesses located along that route. I was not in favor of the plan originally, but I hear that it is working well. At some point, we need to review what we have invested and the results that we have seen, because we may be asked to authorize similar investments in the future.
 
Representative Powers: At this time, yes. But I believe we must proceed with caution regarding public-private partnerships.
 
Representative Turner: Yes, for economic development we need all types of transportation.
 
Representative Verow: Yes, I am very much encouraged. Irving just opened a mill in Ashland, in part because of the rail line. That’s why rail is so important – it offers more options for businesses and for travelers. We also need to get rail to Eastport, so that we can get full use of the Port of Eastport.
 
Representative Werts: Being new to the committee I have not had a lot of exposure to this, but I have listened to other legislators who are pleased with it.

Maria Fuentes: Beyond highway investments what are your priorities for improving passenger and freight transportation?
 
Representative McLean: We need to encourage businesses to use rail more. There are lots of rail lines needing drastic improvements. Many are privately owned and we need to figure out how to best work with the rail lines to improve efficiency and speed to get businesses to use the services. The Downeaster has learned from this model. There is a great deal of economic development in Biddeford Saco and Old Orchard Beach that has happened as a result of the Downeaster. Certainly, passenger rail is more difficult, especially in rural areas, but we should look at the Downeaster as a model, and a very successful one at that.
 
Representative Nutting: We should continue to look at how rail and our ports can improve our transportation needs while understanding that, for the foreseeable future, our roads and bridges are the most important means of transporting both freight and people.
 
Representative Powers: I strongly believe it is time to explore improving public transportation opportunities in Maine.
 
Representative Turner: We need a plan to develop all types of transportation so they work in concert – not competing – with each other.
 
Representative Verow: We should be improving our rail beds, and encouraging more rail transportation. We should have a plan, approach it methodically, and do it well.
 
Representative Werts: Getting passenger rail north of Portland and partnering with Canada, if possible.

Maria Fuentes: What is the one transportation project in your district you would most like to see completed? Why?
 
Representative McLean: The continued reduction of traffic in Gorham Village. We’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the village with the new Gorham Bypass, but we still have a ways to go.
 
Representative Nutting: The pipeline for natural gas is going right through my district, and it is important that the roads be repaired after the pipeline is finished.
 
Representative Powers: Route 11 is a significant commuter route for the constituents in all three of my towns. It is deteriorating at a rapid rate and is not up to the task of carrying so many vehicles and particularly so many commercial vehicles.
 
Representative Turner: I believe we need to continue to maintain and improve Route 6. It is a vital artery in District 11.
 
Representative Verow: The I-395 connector to Route 9. But we need to make sure we do it right.
 
Representative Werts: Beyond roads, bridges and the airport, passenger rail.
 
Maria Fuentes: If you could change one thing about the legislative process, what would it be? What do you find most rewarding about serving in the Maine Legislature?
 
Representative McLean: I do wish the legislative process were more efficient, but serving here is such a privilege. It is just an incredible opportunity to work with others on important issues that affect our state.
 
Representative Nutting: The most frustrating thing about the Maine Legislature (and the thing that I would change if I could) is the amount of time that we spend in Augusta. One would think that, with better planning, there would be less down time and therefore more time to spend back in our districts. There is no easy solution, but we should keep working on it. The most rewarding part of being a legislator, is being able to connect with people in my district who have questions about or need help with some part of state government. On a personal note, there are very few jobs that allow someone to work beside almost 200 people from all over the state who are trying to make Maine a better place to live and work.
 
Representative Powers: I don't have much time or money, and we waste much of both in the legislature. Any improvements to that end would be appreciated. I am honored to have met so many wonderful people who love Maine and are working hard to ensure it remains a great state.
 
Representative Turner: I would like to see better organization in the legislature. Most rewarding is being able to help so many people in my district and across the state.
 
Representative Verow: I enjoy the legislative process. It is laid out in such a way that there are checks and balances between the House and the Senate, between the legislature and the governor’s office, and there are ample opportunities for discussion and for amending policy. I have been very impressed with the many smart people who are elected to the Legislature. Regardless of their party or where they come from, they really care about what they are doing. Nobody is here for the money. In both parties, I haven’t yet met anyone I don’t like; instead I have met a lot of hard-working Maine people. I find the work challenging and enjoyable.
 
Representative Werts: I would love to see the partisanship go away, but that won’t happen anytime soon. What has been most rewarding is the communication I’ve received from constituents about what, if any, progress we have made.

Maria Fuentes: What accomplishment are you most proud of this session? What priority issues might you urge the committee to take up next year?
 
Representative McLean: I was very encouraged by the work of the Joint Select Committee on Workforce Development, looking ahead at our community college system, job training, how we can help people get the skills they need for the jobs that are available. Those were really solid things, and the legislation was a great display of bi-partisanship.
On the other hand, I was disappointed in the health care debate, in that over 70,000 hard working Mainers were denied coverage. I hope that the Legislature will realize next year how important this is for our economy and working families in Maine. Next year I hope we can find a way to increase funding for transportation. I am also interested in moving forward with Representative Treat’s bill on elder transportation issues; I believe there are many opportunities there to help people out.
 
Representative Nutting: The Transportation Committee worked well together and, for the most part, put partisan politics aside. We had a great mix of newcomers and veterans on the committee. The budget that we passed unanimously out of committee was thoroughly gone over and one which citizens should be pleased with as it gets the job done within existing resources.
 
Representative Powers: I am proud that we were able to come together and pass a budget given the contentious atmosphere. I do wish we had done more to improve the needs of our citizens. I believe a priority would be in seeking increased funding for the MaineDOT.
 
Representative Turner: Paying off the debt that was owed to Maine’s hospitals and also that we passed a transportation budget that will not just maintain but improve our transportation system. We need to continue to find cost savings and better methods to use with our limited budget.
 
Representative Verow: I am personally very pleased we got a unanimous vote on the Highway Fund budget in our committee. I hope that next year we can delve deeper into the funding coming into the Highway Fund. We need time to discuss the state’s many needs, and to prioritize and see what the best direction to go in is.

Representative Werts: I am proud we managed to get the budget passed although lacking greatly and we at least got passed a possible search for funds to provide an assessment for passenger rail north of Portland.

 


Aroostook on track
Maine Northern Railway’s Ian Simpson tells tale of reclamation on the Aroostook rail line

In June, Maine Northern Railway (MNR) completed an agreement to purchase a 28-mile stretch of rail line between Van Buren and Madawaska from Montreal Maine & Atlantic. On August 1, Irving Transportation’s Ian Simpson talked about the purchase and other developments on the line – Irving Transportation is the parent company of MNR – at the MBTA Aroostook County Meeting at the Northeastern Hotel in Presque Isle. Nearly 60 MBTA members, family, friends, community leaders and legislators were on hand to hear Simpson’s report on developments at the rail line.
 
First, MBTA President Tom Gorrill welcomed the crowd and spoke to the issue on many people’s minds: Would there be an agreement between Governor LePage and the Maine Legislature on a transportation bond in time for a bond package to go to voters in November? Gorrill said that “despite the good efforts of many in the legislature – some of you in this room – MaineDOT will be forced to cut $100 million from its current work plan if a bond is not passed.” Gorrill said that would be disastrous for the state because “it has been abundantly clear that our transportation system is underfunded.” (editor’s note: While the outlook for timely passage of a bond at the August 1 meeting was unclear, the governor and legislative leaders were able to agree by late August on a $149.5 million bond package that includes $100 million for roads, rail and ports.)
 
Gorrill thanked the evening’s sponsors – The Lane Construction Corporation and Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development (LEAD). He also introduced several notable guests in the audience: House Transportation Committee Chair Charles Kenneth Theriault (D-Madawaska); Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook); Representative Robert Saucier (D-Presque Isle); Representative Joyce Fitzpatrick (R-Houlton) and her granddaughter; Representative Carol McElwee (R-Caribou); Phil Bosse from U.S. Senator Susan Collins’ office; Sharon Campbell from U.S. Senator Angus King’s office; Robert Dorsey of LEAD and Aroostook Partners for Progress; and Barbara Hayslett from U.S. Representative Mike Michaud’s office. Then Ian Simpson took the podium to update MBTA members on the $10.5 million in upgrades his company has all but completed on the state-owned line, that were funded by a federal TIGER grant (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) and more than $1 million in private investments in capital equipment and infrastructure made by Irving Transportation.
 
“This has been a tremendous partnership at all levels,” said Simpson, of the public private partnership between Irving, the U.S. DOT and MaineDOT. With the TIGER grant, NMR has been able to replace 35 crossings and perform preventative maintenance including the replacement of more than 80,000 ties (30,000 more ties than originally planned) and almost 80,000 tons of rock ballast. In doing so, Simpson said that MNR had taken “some of the worst track in New England, made it some of the best track – and done a lot to get track speeds up.”
 
Speeds that had been limited to just 10 mph in many places on the line are now 25 mph on branch lines and 35 mph at Oakfield. That has been key, according to Simpson, to reducing shipping times, improving efficiency and attracting shippers. Also key have been updated safety measures employed on the line, including the upgrading of the contract with an outside rail inspection firm from one inspection per year to four.
 
There is no question investment by the state, the federal government and Irving has resulted in a significant increase in shipper traffic on the line, said Simpson.
 
Before Irving took over operation of the line, Montreal Maine & Atlantic was running approximately 100 carloads a week. In 2011, after MNR assumed control of the line, that rose to 166 carloads, and rail traffic has continued to grow: to 208 carloads weekly in 2012 to a projected 350 to 400 carloads weekly by the end of the year. Simpson said MNR is currently logging between 230 and 240 carloads on the line.
 
Simpson said Irving’s employment in its Maine-based rail divisions also has increased: from 52 in 2012 to 84 in 2013 (28 on Irving’s Eastern Maine Rail and 56 on MNR).
 
Simpson also spoke about impacts of the tragic oil train accident in Lac-Megantic that killed 47 people and shut down rail traffic on an important east-west route. For some shippers, Simpson said, that has meant rerouting east-west rail traffic, north of the site of the accident. He also alluded to concerns about shipping volatile substances via rail, noting that currently no crude oil is being shipped on the NMR line.
 
FMI: The MBTA holds regional meetings throughout the year in Bangor, South Portland, Augusta, Presque Isle and Eastport. For more information, visit www.MBTAonline.org.
 
2013 MBTA Aroostook Meeting
Pathfinder Sponsors: Chadwick-BaRoss and Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development (LEAD)

 


Going for the green

Sold-out midsummer fundraiser brings in $23,000 for MBTA Infrastructure Development Fund

Every year for the past 17 years, MBTA members and friends have gathered on the greens for a good cause: to raise money for the MBTA Infrastructure Development Fund. The 2013 MBTA Infrastructure Golf Classic was held July 18 at the Augusta Club in Manchester, and support for the event’s core mission was strong. This year, more than 140 golfers were on hand for the sold-out event. There also was a small army of volunteers who helped plan and run the event that raised $23,000 for the MBTA Infrastructure Development Fund. The fund supports MBTA’s efforts to communicate the organization’s most important messages: that transportation investment creates jobs, boosts the economy and improves Maine’s position in the world marketplace.
 
Competition was strong with the top teams battling it out in three categories: Top Gross, Top Net and Top Mixed Team. The team representing The Rowley Agency, ETTI and Mattingly Products (Gary LaPierre, Bobby Donnally, Scott Kelley and Phil Mattingly) took top honors with a gross score of 57. The Travelers/Clark Insurance team (Adam Lamarre, Jason Cadorette, Jeff Shaw and Josh Ellis) came in second with a gross score of 61.
 
The competition for Top Net honors was close with the Whited Peterbilt/Auburn Concrete team (Jon Whited, Joel Cummings, Felix Lincoln and Rick Schrepper) eeking out a victory over the second place net team from Irving Oil (Matt Holland, Jim Locke, Gene Jones and Tom Poulin) with only a two stroke difference: 51 to 53.
 
The Top Mixed Team, Mike Marriner, Sheila Marriner, John Paradis and Tom Tolliver, took that category with a score of 65.
 
There were plenty of opportunities for individual golfers to shine, too. Rhonda Cousens and Allan Gould won Straightest Drive at Hole 9; Carl Voigt snagged Closest to the Pin, with a drive that was only 13’7” off the 15th hole. The putting contest came down to a three-way tie between Dick Cousens, Jon Whited and Leonard Ruszcyk.
 
And Rick Schrepper, Rhonda Cousens and Terry Byrne shared the winnings at the Casino Hole (Hole 17). Unfortunately, no one took home either of the coveted Hole-in-One prizes – a Jeep Wrangler sponsored by Charlie’s Auto Mall and a $10,000 cash prize sponsored by Cross Insurance.
 
At a post-tournament reception in the clubhouse, MBTA Vice President Jim Hanley thanked everyone for their enthusiastic support of the organization’s advocacy work encouraging public investment in Maine’s transportation network. Former MBTA President and 2013 Golf Committee Chair Tom Martin did the honors, passing out the awards, including announcing the winner of the 50-50 Raffle – Dale Mitchell of HNTB. Dale won $632 (an equal portion went to support the MBTA Educational Foundation Scholarship Fund). Dale generously donated $100 of his winnings to the fund, as well.
 

2013 MBTA Infrastructure Golf Classic Winners

  • Top Gross - Gary LaPierre, Bobby Donnally, Scott Kelley, Phil Mattingly            
  • Top Net - Jon Whited, Joel Cummings, Felix Lincoln, Rick Schrepper                 
  • 2nd Gross - Adam Lamarre, Jason Cadorette, Jeff Shaw, Josh Ellis                   
  • 2nd Net - Matt Holland, Jim Locke, Gene Jones, Tom Poulin                              
  • Straightest Drive-Women - Rhonda Cousens
  • Straightest Drive-Men - Alan Gould
  • Close to Pin - Carl Voigt
  • Mixed Team - Mike Marriner, Sheila Marriner, John Paradis, Tom Tolliver            
  • Putting Contest (Ties) - Dick Cousens, Jon Whited, Leonard Ruszczyk              
  • Casino Hole (each took home $200) - Rick Schrepper, Rhonda Cousens, Terry Byrne
  • 50/50 Raffle ($632) - Dale Mitchell         
  • $50 Home Depot Gift Certificates - Pete Webb, Rolf Westphal
  • Umbrella & golf balls - Dana Knapp, Pete Webb, Tim Cote
 
Grand Sponsors
  • Auto Auctions of Maine
  • Bitumar
  • HNTB
  • Irving
  • Sargent Corp.
  • Whited
 
19th Hole Sponsor
  • Cianbro
 
Hole-in-One Prizes
  • Charlie’s of Augusta
  • Cross Insurance
 
Luncheon/Beverage Sponsors
  • Anderson Equipment Company
  • Brown Industrial Group, Inc.
  • Clean Harbors Environmental Services
  • Milton CAT
Gold Sponsors
  • CDM Smith
  • Down East Emulsions
  • Fay, Spofford & Thorndike
  • The Lane Construction Corporation
  • Nortrax, Inc.
  • The Rowley Agency
  • Surveying and Mapping Consultants, Inc.
 
Silver Sponsors
  • Auburn Concrete
  • Berkley Surety
  • H. O. Bouchard, Inc.
  • CCB, Inc.
  • Chadwick-BaRoss, Inc.
  • Ciment Quebec
  • Concord Coach Lines
  • Cross Surety, Inc.
  • Dearborn Brothers Construction
  • Dirigo Slipform
  • Dragon Products
  • ETTI
  • Grace Construction Products
  • A. H. Harris & Sons, Inc.
  • Jordan Equipment Company, Inc.
  • Macpage LLC
  • Maine Drilling & Blasting, Inc.
  • Bruce A. Manzer, Inc.
  • Marriners, Inc.
  • McGoldrick Brothers Blasting Services, Inc.
  • Oldcastle Precast
  • Pike Industries
  • Pratt & Sons, Inc.
  • E. J. Prescott, Inc.
  • Shaw Brothers Construction, Inc.
  • Skillings-Shaw and Associates
  • Sprague Operating Resources
  • Ted Berry Company, Inc.
  • Thompson
  • Travelers
  • Willis of Northern New England
  • Wyman and Simpson, Inc.
 
2013 Golf Committee
Chair: Tom Martin
Committee: Tom Biegel, Greg Dore, Tom Gorrill, Jim Hanley, John Harbottle, Doug Hermann, Larry Hutchins, Mike Marriner, Larry Roberts, Joe Rollins, Johnny Wardwell, Holly Williams
 
2013 Golf Vounteers
Brad Kaherl, Pam Rogers, Holly Williams, Emily Hermann, Michelle Orlando, Paul Beaudette
 
Special Thanks
Our gratitude goes to Cross Insurance and Charlie’s of Augusta for the Hole-in-One prizes. To Gorham Sand & Gravel and T.Y. Lin for golfer gifts. Also to Concord Coach Lines, The Rowley Agency and M&N Operating Co. for golf tees and raffle donations. Your support helps make this event fun and successful!

Transformers

For more than a century, Messer Truck Equipment has transformed ordinary trucks into hard working tools for the construction industry and other trades

On a warm late summer day, the bays at Messer Truck Equipment are full of works in progress. A municipal truck is being refurbished in advance of the snowplowing season. A brand new commercial van is being outfitted as a travelling workshop for an electrician. And a truck chassis is being fitted with a dump body and hydraulic lift system. Out back, new and used snowplows are lined up, ready to be installed and/or refurbished in anticipation of winter and snow. And on the showroom floor of Messer’s parts department, a shiny new stainless steel Fisher XV2 plow is on display.
 
This is, according to company President Jeffrey Messer, the launch of the company’s busy season, as municipal road crews and private contractors begin preparations for winter. While he won’t say exactly how many blades Messer technicians typically install every year, he hints that hundreds of blades will be driven out of Messer’s Westbrook shop by the time the snow flies. Messer is one of the largest dealers of Fisher snowplows in the country and the largest in the northern New England region.
 
“Snowplows are our niche,” said Messer with pride in his voice. “This is Maine and we know that, in the end, a lot of people are going to need a plow.” 
 
Filling niches
 
The company has solid beginnings, founded in 1899 in Portland by Messer’s great-grandfather Walter A. Messer. Walter was a blacksmith who came to Maine from New Brunswick, Canada, originally to work with his brother-in-law. He opened his own one-man smithy on Union Street in Portland to serve the bustling port city’s need for wagon wheels, sleighs and ironwork for ships. As more businesses began to move from horse-drawn wagons to motorized vehicles, Messer carved out a business building open-sided delivery truck bodies and delivery vans.
 
Walter’s son, John F. “Jack” Messer, joined the company in 1945 after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II and studying accounting at Bentley College in Boston. Jack had worked as an itinerant accountant and auditor for an insurance company. His business expertise proved invaluable for a company poised for growth during the post-war boom years. Together, Walter and Jack expanded the business building truck bodies, and in the late 1940s, the company moved from Union Street to a custom-built facility in Portland’s Bayside area. The added space enabled Messer to expand its services. In addition to building custom truck bodies, the company began maintaining and servicing trailers.
 
It was this ability to identify emerging markets and develop services specific to those markets that has been a hallmark of the company’s growth over the years. As Jack described it in a 1984 trade journal: “The success of our company can probably be attributed in part to the fact that we have always been progressive enough to diversify services and product lines at the right time. Of course, a successful business is also the result of a lot of long hours and hard work.”
 
The next generation
 
At Walter’s retirement in 1957, Jack became president of W.A. Messer and the company entered another era of growth, moving to a five-acre site on Warren Avenue in Westbrook that today houses a 20-bay garage, a retail parts store and company offices.
 
By the time Jack’s son, John P. Messer, joined the company in 1971, Jack had a staff of 12 and was transitioning from a builder of custom truck bodies and vans to a dealer and service center for high quality, specialized truck equipment. Like his father before him, John served his country as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves. He earned a college degree, graduating with a dual major in engineering and business from Clarkson University in 1969. He also worked outside the family business for General Electric, participating in the company’s manufacturing management training program and working at G.E.’s facilities in Lynn and Everett, Massachusetts.
 
John learned the family business from the ground up, working as a mechanic for three years, and after in various departments including parts and inside sales. He eventually moved into management and in 1982, he was named president of W.A. Messer. When his father Jack retired in 1987, John purchased the business.
 
Under John’s guidance, the company continued to grow. He bolstered Messer’s sales force and the company expanded its reach throughout Maine and New Hampshire. John was active professionally with the Maine Better Transportation Association and served as president of the National Truck Equipment Association from 1992-1993.
 
The company celebrated its centennial in 1999 and was featured in a special tribute in the Bangor Daily News. John Messer showed he was a visionary and was an early adopter of technology. He oversaw the launch of the company’s first web site and outfitted his sales staff with laptop computers, so they could put together instant bids for customers while out on the road.
 
That newspaper tribute features several long-time employees who are still with the company today, including Tom Shaw, a familiar face to many MBTA members and head of the company’s sales force. Tom is a firm believer in developing personal relationships with Messer’s customers and making sure customers are able to get the truck they need exactly the way they need it. “Our customers are the type of people who work from dawn until dusk,” Shaw told the Bangor Daily News at the company’s 100-year anniversary in 1999. “In sales you do what you’ve got to do to serve the customer.”
 
Challenging times
 
Jeff Messer, John’s son, became the fourth generation to work in the family business when he joined the business in 2003, four years after the company celebrated its centennial. Like his father before him, joining the family business wasn’t an automatic decision for him. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in ocean engineering, he served in the U.S. Navy for five years as a surface warfare officer caring for planes on an aircraft carrier and serving as an ocean engineer, operating an onboard nuclear power plant before coming back to Maine.
 
Jeff said it was a tradition in the family to encourage the next generation to work outside the business and experience the world. Then, if they wanted, there was a place in the family business waiting for them.
 
“I had been on active duty for five years and was wondering what I was going to do, and my dad said, ‘Why don’t you come back and work for me?’” remembered Messer. Like his father, Jeff set about to learn the entire business, working as a mechanic, in the parts department and in purchasing and sales. Talking about the decision to return to Maine and learn the business from his father brings back bittersweet memories.
 
Just a few years later in 2008, his father died unexpectedly, and Jeff confesses that he did not feel entirely prepared to take the reins.
 
“My dad had been thinking about an exit strategy, and we had just entered into an 18-month purchase-and-sale agreement. All of those plans got accelerated when he died,” remembered Jeff.
 
He said that five years later, he is beginning to feel as if he is “leaving a footprint” on the business.
 
Jeff credits the strength of the family and the hard work and dedication of Messer’s long-time employees for helping the company through that difficult time.
 
The company made it through that challencing era. Today, Messer Truck Equipment still operates from its Warren Avenue location, though the original 10,000-square-foot facility has grown to 35,000, and the staff now numbers 20. Jeff is currently looking to add two or three more positions on the manufacturing side of the business.
 
Messer said it is too early yet to tell if the business will be passed down to a fifth generation, but he has noticed that his two young daughters enjoy coming to work with their dad and especially enjoy climbing in the trucks.
 
As for his own family ties, Jeff has followed in his fathers’ footsteps and become active in the professional community, serving on the board of the National Truck Equipment Association since 2010 and becoming a vice president of the organization this year. He calls on advice his dad gave him when they were working side-by-side. “He said that ‘It always comes down to the customer: Treat them the way you like to be treated,’” recalled Jeff.

Legislative session = success!

By David Bernhardt, P.E.
MaineDOT Commissioner
 
We started off the legislative session in January knowing what we needed to accomplish; knowing what we needed to deliver our work plan. We had two major hurdles to cross before we would have the necessary funds to deliver the work plan: a shift in the State Police funding, and the enactment of $100 million bond. Following the legislature’s late August actions, I can now report that we have successfully crossed those hurdles and are ready to get to work. This is a big win for Maine and represents a highly successful legislative session.
 
It is MaineDOT’s mission to responsibly provide the safest and most reliable transportation system possible, given available resources. Policymakers determine the amount of those resources. MaineDOT then does the best it can with what it has by stretching available dollars to focus as much as we can on product, as opposed to process, and to prioritize.
 
MaineDOT publishes a three-year, calendar year-based work plan early in January. Reliability is essential. Our engineers and staff depend upon it, the Maine companies that bid on our projects depend upon it, and the Maine people – our customers – depend upon it.
 
Over the last three or so years, we have been able to deliver our proposed work plan with 90 percent accuracy. A reliable work plan needs reliable funding.
 
The $1.81 billion work plan MaineDOT released earlier this year is comprised of $953 million in highway and bridge capital and was created based on the assumption that the decades-old State Police funding formula would finally be accurately adjusted and Governor LePage’s proposed $100 million bond would be enacted.
 
State Police funding formula fix
 
The first of these two funding problems were addressed with the enactment of the Highway Fund and General Fund budgets earlier this summer. The ratio of funding for the State Police was appropriately adjusted to more accurately represent the work that they do – 65 percent General Fund and 35 percent Highway Fund. The Highway Fund most recently paid for 49 percent of the State Police, and decades ago it reached nearly 87 percent. This adjustment results in approximately $6.5 million more for MaineDOT from the Highway Fund each year. It puts to rest the decades old debate and represents a major win for Maine’s infrastructure.
 
Recognizing the need for a transportation bond, the Maine Legislature met for a special session in late August. As the very last action of the special session, the House and Senate passed Governor LePage’s $100 million transportation bond. The House vote was 114-7. The Senate vote was 32-0. Given the size and unprecedented flexibility of this bond, this legislative action represents a tremendous vote of confidence for MaineDOT, one we are certain we can live up to. The voters will consider this bond as Question 3 on the November ballot, along with four other bond measures totaling $49.5 million.
 
This is the plan
 
The transportation bond consists of $76 million for highway and bridges statewide to be used as follows:
·         $44 million for highway improvements on our Priority 1, 2, and 3 highways;
·         $5 million for our Municipal Partnership Program; and
·         $27 million for bridge reconstruction and rehabilitation.
·         The bond allocates $24 million for multimodal investments. Although the language does not specify how it must be used, we currently plan to disburse funds this way:
·         $9 million for property acquisition, rail connectivity and site preparation at the International Marine Terminal;
·         $4 million to support the working waterfront at the Port of Portland including dredging and capital improvements at the Fish Exchange;
·         $3 million for other port and freight intermodal improvements statewide that could include the need to address an aging breakwater in downtown Eastport and preservation of freight rail service;
·         $1.5 million for the Industrial Rail Access Program (IRAP) – a 50-50 public-private investment program by which Maine businesses team-up with MaineDOT to improve freight rail connections;
·         $4 million for passenger-related investments including transit bus replacement and passenger rail dependent upon federal grant applications;
·         $1.5 million for assistance in matching Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding; and
·         $1 million for the Small Harbor Improvement Program (SHIP).
 
Again, this is a plan. Actual disbursement of bond proceeds for multimodal may change somewhat so that we do not strand bond proceeds if projects are not ready-to-go due to permitting, public opposition, engineering or other technical challenges, etc. Nobody likes “stale bonds.”
 
The incredible success of this bond being enacted and sent to the voters, the shift in the State Police funding, and the near unanimous support of our $613.6 million FY14-FY15 biennial Highway Fund Budget will enable us to deliver our projects with reliability and predictability. These votes represent a significant vote of confidence in MaineDOT’s planning process and abilities. We can certainly count this past session as a highly successful one for Maine’s infrastructure.
 

Now, let’s get to work.

 

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