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Transportation loses ground

2014 Measures of Growth report cites fewer miles ranked fair or better

Transportation was one of only four benchmarks set by The Maine Economic Growth Council (MEGC) to lose ground, according to the recently released 2014 annual report, Measures of Growth in Focus, prepared by the Maine Development Foundation.
 
This year’s report, the 20th to be issued by the MEGC, highlights 27 indicators that measure Maine’s progress toward long-term, sustainable economic growth. Overall, eight indicators moved closer to their benchmarks, four lost ground relative to their benchmarks, eleven made no significant movement relative to their benchmarks, and four were not assigned grades. 
 
“We need to continue to support those areas in which we as a state are performing well and address our shortcomings,” said Harold Clossey, President and CEO of the Maine Development Foundation, that administers the MEGC.
 
“There are some foundational issues that are critical to our economic success - investing in our people in all stages and all facets, investing in the programs and infrastructure that underpin our economy, and controlling costs.” 
 
MEGC Co-chair Tim Hussey, President and CEO of Hussey Seating Company, and Co-chair Senator Eloise Vitelli presented the report to legislative leaders and the governor’s office on March 11.
 
The Transportation Infrastructure benchmark – number 17 in the report – states that Maine has established statutory goals for improving priority 1, 2 and 3 highways, which include the interstate, arterials, and major collectors. It further states that 100 percent of all priority 1 and 2 highways are to be ranked “fair” or better for safety condition and service by 2022, and all priority 3 highways by 2027. The MEGC’s 2015 benchmarks are consistent with these goals and “speak to the connectivity within and beyond the state. Poor roads affect Maine’s economy through reduced productivity, increased vehicle repairs, traffic delays, personal injury, property damage, and business location decisions.”
 
The report goes on to say MaineDOT’s current three-year work plan (2014-2016) meets only 70 percent of needs and indicates a $303 million, three-year shortfall for highway and bridge capital improvements. This shortfall relates mostly to priority 1, 2 and 3 highways and exists despite a $100 million 2013 transportation bond.
 
Bridge needs account for one-third of the shortfall; the balance relates to pavement preservation, reconstruction, and rehabilitation needs. The report notes that bridge funding will decline after 2014, while the number of bridges coming due for major rehabilitation or replacement will increase.
 
Measures of Growth is right on target in noting that we do not have the financial resources to adequately maintain our most important highways and bridges,” said MBTA President Tom Gorrill. He noted that several factors have kept transportation funding from keeping pace with maintenance costs: a federal gas tax that has not increased since 1993 while vehicle fuel efficiency has increased; rising capital improvement costs; and repeal of Maine’s motor fuel tax indexing. Federally mandated increases in vehicle fuel efficiency further weaken financial capacity, and reversing this trend will require Maine to identify new revenue sources for the Highway Fund.
 
“We just aren’t keeping up,” said Gorrill. “In 1976, Maine spent 26 percent of state revenues on transportation; today we spend less than 10 percent and that is just not enough.”
 
“The Measures of Growth report is an excellent guide for where we as policymakers should be focusing our efforts,” said MEGC Co-chair, Senator Eloise Vitelli. “We can clearly see our strengths and weaknesses and the areas we need to address to lift Maine’s economy.” 
 
The Maine Development Foundation (MDF) empowers leaders, strengthens communities, and guides public policy. MDF was created by the governor and legislature in 1978 as a private, non-profit corporation with a broad mandate to promote Maine’s economy.
 
FMI: To download a complete copy of the 2014 Measures of Growth report, please visit www.mdf.org.

 

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