The ‘hole’ truth. It’s pothole season again. By Tom Gorrill
Pushing toward the tipping point. Architects of the MBTA’s Fix It Now! campaign want to shift public opinion in favor of increased transportation funding. By Kathryn Buxton
Trail talks. MBTA’s Maria Fuentes talks with Senator Valentino and Representative Gillway.
News from away. What other states are dong to fix their roads.
Transportation loses ground. Measures of Growth report shows decline in miles improved.
What’s next? At the Legislative Breakfast & Briefing.
75 and counting: MBTA begins its 75th year.
Learning curve. At E.J. Prescott’s “University of Prescott,” students get an education and a career. By Kathryn Buxton
Warm send off. ETTI throws a big party for “The Hub.”
Icy, cold and expensive. MaineDOT counts the days and dollars of winter. By Dale F. Doughty and Brian Burne
The ‘hole’ truth about potholes
Rough roads cost Mainers a lot – in vehicle maintenance, higher accident rates and business slow downs
By Tom Gorrill, MBTA President
This time of year, people can actually see the deterioration of Maine’s highways that has been caused by decades of underfunding. Continually fixing and refixing potholes is expensive and those potholes damage our vehicles, resulting in costly repairs. The money spent on filling in those potholes and on car repairs could be better used for improving our roads so the potholes don’t occur in the first place.
When we think about the costs of bad roads, consider that MaineDOT currently posts more than 2,000 miles of roadways that are especially prone to cracking and potholes every spring. This limits commercial traffic on those roads, hamstringing local economies and businesses. Home construction, logging, and heavy deliveries are just a few examples of work that comes to a halt for four to six weeks every year.
How long roads are posted depends on how quickly the frost goes out of the roads. Typically, according to MaineDOT, that can last until mid-May. So, MaineDOT provides links to maps to determine alternative routes. MaineDOT puts the total cost to reconstruct all posted roads as “beyond DOT’s budget.”
There is also the issue of public safety. MBTA Senior Policy Advisor John Melrose said at a recent meeting that, according to MaineDOT data, crashes are more than twice as likely to happen on Maine’s worst ranked roads.
In order to deal with its $300 million per year funding gap, MaineDOT has had to reprioritize its roadways and spend the money they do have on the higher priority roadways that are most heavily traveled. Less traveled roadways and bridges, which serve a large portion of our rural state, are left unaddressed due to lack of funding. This brings the funding gap closer to $150 million per year. Reconstructing posted roads, in many cases, isn’t going to happen. They will continue to be posted, year after year. Ultimately, who’s going to pay for the worsening condition of these roads? Maine businesses and Maine citizens in the form of increased vehicle maintenance, higher accident rates and lost economic opportunity.
Actually, when you think about potholes, they are a good metaphor for the idea at the core of MBTA’s Fix It Now! campaign. Because as bad as the pothole is, it is only a symptom of a much bigger problem under the surface. We want to highlight the cracks in Maine’s transportation infrastructure: substandard roads, aging bridges and too little funding to fix them. We also want to show how these problems are affecting life in Maine. We hope that by exposing the real cost of inadequate roads, we will build strong support for fixing them.
We have launched the Fix It Now! campaign, because someone has to do something. . . someone has to take on the daunting task of changing hearts and minds in Augusta and Washington. Other priorities have taken center stage along with the lion’s share of the funding. In 1975, we spent 25 percent of state revenues on transportation. In 2013, we spent less than 10 percent.
While the world has changed since 1975 and transportation certainly needs to be balanced with other priorities, this kind of a reduction cannot sustain a competitive transportation system necessary to the vibrant economy we envision in Maine.
The buying power of these reduced federal and state highway funds, primarily supported by the state and federal fuel taxes, also has shrunk. The federal gas tax hasn’t been increased in 20 years and in 2012, the legislature removed the state Highway Fund’s only hedge against inflation when it repealed indexing.
There’s only one serious fix for Maine’s roads and that’s to adequately fund their maintenance and repair. There is no other way.
In that light, Fix it Now! is enlisting serious support from those with a stake in the game: businesses that depend on the roads to transport their products; the tourism industry that relies on an effective transportation system; citizens who are paying more in vehicle repairs; and municipal officials and local elected officials who are tired of dealing with the issue each year and would prefer to see a sustainable funding solution. MBTA is seeking to work with all of these stakeholders to develop solutions through our Fix It Now! initiative.
We have worked over the past year to identify deficient roadways based on MaineDOT data. During the coming year, we plan to work on the next phase of the initiative to identify and evaluate alternative long-term, sustainable funding mechanisms. This effort hopefully will result in a broad consensus for solutions that could be introduced to the next legislature.
I hope you will join us. If you would like more information, or have ideas for us to consider, please call the MBTA office at 207-622-0526. Let’s get our roads and bridges fixed, now!
Pushing toward the tipping point
A new grassroots campaign is being launched by MBTA to fix Maine’s growing inventory of aging bridges and rough roads
By Kathryn Buxton
It’s pothole season, and if you live or work in Kennebec County, you probably have noticed that some roads this year seem worse than ever before. But do you know that 75 of the 186 bridges in the county – 40 percent – are either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient? Do you know that 126 miles of the county’s most heavily used highways are among the worst roads in the state? And do you know that every time you drive on one of those substandard highways you are more likely – in some cases almost twice as likely – to have an accident? Now, knowing that the problem is so widespread throughout your community and affecting the safety and livelihood of not just you, but your family, neighbors and friends, does that motivate you to take action to demand a solution?
Taking an abstract problem and breaking it down to its basic elements, such as the personal cost of bad roads on your car and, possibly, yourself, is at the heart of Fix It Now!, a new statewide initiative underway at the Maine Better Transportation Association.
“When we talk about the problems of transportation funding, we are used to ‘speaking to the choir,’” said MBTA President Tom Gorrill. The “choir” he is talking about is that band of fellow transportation advocates who have been warily watching the problem of funding get worse over the past decade or more. Those advocates understand about the effect of decreased buying power of the state’s Highway Fund, as well as the declining state and federal emphasis on maintaining and modernizing public infrastructure. Still, Gorrill said, getting the public to understand what is at stake – and to call for a change – has proven more elusive.
“Maine people value transportation – we know that because of their strong support of every transportation bond referendum during the past few decades. But bonds are short-term solutions,” said Gorrill. “We have a big problem and we need to get people engaged in a debate about solutions. This campaign is about doing just that – informing local citizens and pushing them to the tipping point. We want people to see the heavy price we pay – personally and societally – for rough, potholed filled roads and aging, deficient bridges. We want voters to demand a change in how we pay to fix our transportation system.”
‘We’ve got to think bigger’
The MBTA board of directors threw itself behind the Fix It Now! campaign last year, as it became evident that the issue of a transportation funding fix had stalled on both the state and federal levels. Gorrill said that board members felt that transportation could only rise in legislative priority if it were to be a clear priority among voters.
Rodney Lane, a member of the MBTA board of directors, believes the time is right for Fix It Now! The economy is emerging from the recession that hit in December 2007 and all but halted any talk of new taxes or user fees on the state and federal levels, as business and government adopted a survival mentality.
In Maine, that has meant shifting the focus to lower cost maintenance techniques such as skinny mix paving that can hold a road together in the short term, but only serve as a stopgap. Experts agree that MaineDOT has done an excellent job of prioritizing and stretching its dollars, yet over time, a perennial lack of sufficient funding threatens public safety and the state’s economic prospects.
“Our economy is starting to improve,” said Lane. “However, we are a long way from the correct funding levels to provide an infrastructure that is safe and robust enough to attract new businesses, promote more tourism and create economic opportunities for small and large businesses, as well as landowners.”
Lane said that it is important for community and business leaders to get past the survivor mentality and seek bold solutions for big problems: “We have got to start thinking bigger in this state. We have got to stop just protecting ourselves from the naysayers and go on the offensive. We can protect the natural beauty and resources of Maine while we improve our ports, roads, bridges, airports, bicycling/pedestrian trails and rail.”
Fix It Now! is a three- to five-year campaign similar in scope and reach to campaigns the MBTA has undertaken in the past, including the fight for voter approval of the Turnpike widening project in 1997 and legislative passage of L.D. 1790: An Act to Sustain Maine’s Transportation Future, which was enacted by the legislature in 2007.
The board launched an early phase of the campaign last year, commissioning research by John Melrose of the Eaton Peabody Consulting Group. Melrose, a former MaineDOT Commissioner and longtime MBTA senior policy advisor, is looking at data from MaineDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, including MaineDOT’s Asset Management Database that ranks the safety, condition and service of Maine’s highways and bridges.
Melrose’s research provides the big picture, as well as an up-close view of a transportation system that is not keeping pace. It is this research that will form the foundation for Fix It Now!
“Once you begin to drill down into the data, you have a treasure trove of information to make the case,” said Melrose.
The big picture, Melrose said, is not good. And it shows that Maine is not keeping pace with the statutory goals established by the Maine Legislature. That means that the state is falling short of its goals to have its most heavily traveled roads fixed. These goals include having 2,351 miles or 100 percent of priority 1 and 2 roads, including Maine’s interstates, brought up to the grade of “fair” or better by 2022 and 1,972 miles or 100 percent of priority 3 roads upgraded by 2027.
Melrose notes that task will require both discipline and cash to achieve. Currently, Maine has 1,521 miles of highway to fix in order to meet those goals (765 miles of priority 1 and 2 highways and 756 miles of priority 3 highways). MaineDOT estimates it needs additional annual funding of more than $100 million annually to get the job done.
In 2012, the state actually lost ground in that effort due to low levels of funding, with 52 miles of priority 1 and 2 highways slipping from “fair” to “poor” in the MaineDOT database.
Melrose said that the state’s bridge situation is even more precarious. Currently, the average bridge age in Maine is 49 years old – eight years older than the national average. Fifteen percent of all state-maintained bridges (355 bridges) are structurally deficient, and 18 percent (430) are functionally obsolete, according to the Federal Highway Administration. In 2008, Governor Baldacci’s office launched the Keeping Maine’s Bridges Safe initiative, and the Maine Legislature appropriated special bridge funding prompted by the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota. That money is all but spent. Any progress the state has made in tackling its backlog of aging bridges is in danger of being reversed.
Melrose reels off a list of major bridges that are now or soon will be due for replacement, including “extraordinary bridges” – bridges that will cost $10 million or more to repair or replace – such as the international bridge connecting Maine and Canada in Madawaska and the bridge linking Jonesport and Beals Island.
“We need to start acting now. Bridges like these are essential to the lifeblood of the communities they serve and to the state. Planning for an international bridge like that can take 10 years or more,” said Melrose.
To bring the message home, literally, the board has commissioned Melrose to develop a snapshot of the issues faced by each of Maine’s 16 counties. These county reports break the information down county-by-county.
“There’s a great value in knowing that if you live in Kennebec County, these specific roads and bridges are not meeting the standard – and how that may be affecting your safety and your bottom line,” said Gorrill. “That’s going to make you more apt to call your legislators and tell them to do something about it.”
Fellow board member Rodney Lane noted that the campaign has currently entered into its second phase and plans to build an interactive web site that will put that local, “small picture” information at voters’ finger tips, and that will form the focal point of a statewide grassroots campaign for change.
“Generation Y is engaged and wants to be part of making change for good reason,” said Lane. “They are linked in. I just don’t see people calling their legislators with questions or complaints as the way to instigate change. Give them a web site with pictures, testimonials, etc. Inform them of the problems. . . Poll them about funding while you’re educating them about funding . . . Ask them what they care about and link their response to their legislator.”
Lane and other board members have been active in giving shape to the web site. The campaign plans to launch the site late this year. He said they want to make it a conduit for positive change.
“We want Mainers to see a very simple site that gives them an easy way to voice concerns about the roads that they and their families travel on. We want a site that will build a swell of support to instigate action and generate enough traffic to influence our legislators in Augusta,” said Lane.
In the coming months, MBTA is working with like-minded organizations to build the statewide grassroots network that will help rally support for Fix It Now! The MBTA has identified diverse interest groups that have a stake in a modern, safe and efficient transportation system. Potential allies include business organizations, transit providers, bicycle advocates and port and rail supporters.
Melrose gives examples of two recent public infrastructure projects that have had a transformative role in the Maine community: the state purchase of a 233-mile railroad line in Aroostook County and improvements to the International Marine Terminal in Portland, that is now home to a direct marine freight line connecting Maine and Europe.
“If we can tackle our transportation problems and find a sustainable way to fund the system, everyone in Maine stands to benefit,” said Melrose.
“Public investment in infrastructure has an important role,” he continued. “Just look at the state’s efforts on behalf of the rail line in Aroostook County and in the expansion of the port of Portland. Those projects have encouraged the creation of new jobs and supported growing businesses and are getting people around the world interested in doing business with Maine.”
Get involved: Learn how you can get involved in the Fix It Now! campaign, contact the MBTA office, 207-622-0526 or e-mail Maria@MBTAonline.org.
MBTA’s Maria Fuentes talks to Transportation Committee members Senator Linda Valentino (D-York County) and Representative James Gillway (R-Searsport)
Maine Trails: What made you want to serve on the Transportation Committee?
Senator Valentino: The Maine Legislature’s Transportation Committee is the committee with the most direct relationship between constituents and Augusta. Constituents can see tangible results in their communities, whether it is paving or improving a road, making a bridge safer, or providing more opportunities for companies to ship their products through marine or rail improvements.
Representative Gillway: Everyone who serves in Augusta has some expertise. I’ve been a police officer for over 25 years. In addition, for the past nine years, I have been the town manager of Searsport. I could easily serve on a couple of different committees, but because Searsport is one of Maine’s three ports, I felt it was very important to seek out the Transportation Committee to help advance multimodal transportation issues. I felt that I could bring some real life experience to the committee.
Maine Trails: When your constituents talk to you about transportation, what do they most often talk to you about?
Senator Valentino: The most frequent comment I hear is about roads and the gas tax. People seem to think they are paying too much in fuel taxes, but not getting enough services. Now that I have served on the Transportation Committee, I understand that we are underfunding our system, and we need to address that in a comprehensive way. The other thing I hear about is the need for red lights at certain intersections to improve safety.
Representative Gillway: It changes a lot. A little over a year ago, it was all about the movement of propane by ship, rail and truck. This year it’s all about dredging.
Maine Trails: 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 are your thoughts on this issue?
Senator Valentino: I think that, as a state, we need to develop comprehensive tax reform for our transportation system, rather than nibbling at the edges. When the legislature has taken on tax reform, there are always winners and losers and certainly the losers have been more vocal. People in Maine need an efficient transportation system. Despite the fact that we have been climbing out of a recession, people are still driving a lot, and this is shown by the fact that vehicle miles traveled have really not decreased significantly. Other states have figured out how to advance transportation funding proposals, and we need to as well. Virginia implemented a sales tax at the wholesale level, but they did it as part of a comprehensive plan. Other states are indexing their fuel tax or figuring out other ways to make funding more sustainable. There are options out there, but we need to look at this in a more thorough way.
Representative Gillway: I think there is a need to have a mix of funding sources. Not everyone drives, but everyone needs our transportation infrastructure. In my town, we actually have a mix of excise tax and property tax paying for the local roads.
Maine Trails: 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?
Senator Valentino: That is difficult because we don’t want to penalize energy efficiency and practices that are environmentally sound. At the same time, we need to recognize that everyone benefits from safe roads and bridges. Even those who don’t drive benefit from our road system – pedestrians and bicyclists have to use roads, and we all depend on our transportation system to have products shipped to us and to ship Maine products to world markets.
Representative Gillway: We desperately need to come up with a new system for paying for our highway infrastructure. I think we need to develop a system like the one they are introducing in the state of Oregon. They give motorists options and take advantage of available technology.
Maine Trails: The 125th 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?
Senator Valentino: Yes, we should discuss it, but only as part of a comprehensive tax reform package. The cost of everything is going up and that is true also of the cost of repairing our system. If we keep the same baseline, we will keep getting further behind.
Representative Gillway: I voted to end the motor fuel tax indexing and still stand by that decision. Putting any tax on autopilot is not a good idea. I think that if a strong enough argument can be made to increase the fuel tax, it should be voted on by the people.
Maine Trails: 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?
Senator Valentino: Yes!
Representative Gillway: I do think this is a subject that should be explored and should be part of the negotiation.
Maine Trails: 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?
Senator Valentino: I spoke with our house chair, Representative Theriault, because I like to ask legislators what is going on in their districts. He said that the rail service has been a huge boost to Aroostook County, and that overall, everybody is very pleased because there are more rail cars on the line and more commerce in Aroostook County.
Representative Gillway: It was a good way to save a vital piece of our infrastructure and promote economic development. I support it.
Maine Trails: Marine transportation is the cleanest and most efficient mode to move many types of cargoes. What should Maine do to improve marine transportation in Maine?
Senator Valentino: Maine should continue supporting the three major marine ports in our state: Portland, Searsport and Eastport. In the last bond issue, there was a $5 million investment targeted at enhancing the Port of Portland and, as a result, we were able to attract a major international company – Eimskip – that is now using Portland as its North American base. The state will receive a huge return on that investment, and it proves how targeted investments in transportation enhance our economic competitiveness.
Representative Gillway: I would like to see Maine make some more investments in marketing all three ports. We also need to educate the public about the importance of our ports. I know my town and other towns in the regions served by port operations would help in this cause. I am sure that the private operators in our ports would help, too.
Maine Trails: Beyond highway investments, what are your priorities for improving passenger and freight transportation?
Senator Valentino: Again, the investment in the port of Portland shows that investment in transportation helps bring business and tax revenues to Maine. I have been a strong support of the Downeaster, which has been a great success in southern Maine, and having a stop in Saco has helped our community. I know my daughter found it very convenient when she was going to school in Boston, and the ridership numbers continue to grow.
Maine’s population is the oldest in the country. As our population continues to age, we should be looking at alternative transportation for the elderly.And finally, we must continue to improve rail and marine transportation that make sense in order to reduce costs for our shippers and other businesses.
Representative Gillway: I’m probably a little biased. I favor multimodal transportation and want to strengthen our port-rail connections. I think the economy will move more people to use passenger rail. We need to prepare for the potential demand.
Maine Trails: What is the one transportation project in your district you would most like to see completed and why? What about the state?
Senator Valentino: For my region and the entire state, I would have to say that we need to fully fund the three bridges between Kittery and Portsmouth as they are the gateway to our state. We must ensure that all three bridges are fully operational.
On a more local level, the Stackpole Bridge in Saco has been closed for the past year, so that would be a local priority as well.
Representative Gillway: I go back to an earlier question – the topic of the year. I want to see the Searsport Bay dredge project completed. I believe this is not only a local issue, but it is one of the most important state and even federal issues facing us today.
Maine Trails: What accomplishment are you most proud of this past session?
Senator Valentino: I was proud to chair and work with the Legislature’s Workforce and Economic Future Committee, and I am excited about the prospect of getting a jobs bond out to voters to stimulate jobs and enhance communities.
Representative Gillway: The committee approved a lot of good legislation this year. I am pleased with all of it. I am most proud of the committee. We worked together in such a non-partisan way, I doubt anyone in the audience could tell which party any of us belong to.
Maine Trails: What priority issues might you urge the committee to take up in the next session?
Senator Valentino: The highest priority for the Transportation Committee should be to address the funding issue for roads and to work with partners such as the different transportation groups, the Maine Chamber, construction and municipal groups, the trucking industry and all who have a stake in our transportation system. Otherwise, our funding gap – which is currently between $100 million and $150 million – will continue to grow.
Representative Gillway: I would love to see us work on the inequity in the motor fuel tax.
Maine Trails: 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?
Senator Valentino: I would like to reform the process of submitting bills for consideration to the legislature. We know that the business community needs predictability, and there should be a way to streamline the process relative to letting bills in. One way may be to not allow bills in the second session unless they are true emergencies, or require a two-thirds vote for them to go forward. We spend too much time going through bills that come up every two years and aren’t going to go anywhere.
The most rewarding thing about serving is constituent work, and the people I have been privileged to meet because of my service. This clearly includes my constituents first, but also the people I get to meet from across the state who serve, or who are staff, or part of the process.
Representative Gillway: I enjoy working in committee and working with the various departments and the lobbyists who visit Transportation. However, I would love to see the legislature start and end on time. If we had some time limitations, I think people would make better use the time available. We waste a lot of time waiting for people to arrive and get to work.
News from away
What are other states doing to fix their roads and bridges?
Maine is not the only state grappling with the issue of decreasing revenues to invest in transportation infrastructure. With a federal gas tax that has remained stagnant since the 1990s, increased vehicle fuel efficiency and other factors at play, every state in the union faces mounting maintenance backlogs and dwindling state and federal highway revenues.
Last year, several states took steps to address their shortfalls – from increasing state gas taxes and imposing a sales tax on wholesale gasoline to establishing revolving funds to finance major infrastructure projects. This year, 19 other states have gotten into the act and have transportation funding measures under consideration. Read about some of these developments below:
Three bills under consideration in the Alaska state legislature call for setting up a $2 billion account to be earmarked for an Alaska Transportation Infrastructure Fund. Continued funding would come primarily from fuel taxes and license fees. The sponsor of one proposal, Republican Representative Peggy Wilson, has grabbed headlines for her proposal. Whether one of the proposals will pass is still uncertain, as there are diverging opinions, including some of the legislature’s Democratic leadership, about the fund’s revenue stream and oversight.
Last year, California lawmakers voted to increase the state gas tax by 3.5 cents. This year, the California State Board of Equalization, which sets state fuel tax levels, voted 3-2 to reverse that decision, decreasing the gas tax by 3.5 cents. Californians could start seeing the price cut at the pump as early as July 1. Meanwhile, the state legislature is considering the nation’s first ever carbon tax paid by drivers – a 15 cent per gallon charge at the pump. If passed, none of the funding would go to roads. Instead two-thirds would pay for an earned income credit for families making less than $75,000 a year. The other third would help fund public transit.
Municipalities have been tackling transportation funding on their own. During this past election, four cities in Marin County — Corte Madera, Larkspur, San Rafael and San Anselmo — passed ballot measures to fund transportation and other general services. San Rafael voters approved a proposal to extend that city’s one-half cent sales tax for 20 years while also implementing a .25 percent increase. That will raise the city’s sales tax to a national high of 9.25 percent.
Democratic Governor Jack Markell in February proposed a 10-cent-per-gallon increase to the state’s 23-cent gas tax. The hike would cost a typical Delaware motorist $57 a year and would be indexed to inflation. Ensured three more years of a second term, the governor said, “When it comes to funding transportation, there are no Democrat bridges or Republican roads.” He noted that without an increase or an alternative increase in funding, the state will have to shelve 55 infrastructure projects this year.
In February, an Iowa House panel moved ahead with a proposal that would raise the state’s gas tax by 10 cents a gallon over three years to help fill a $215 million a year funding gap. Whether the measure will pass will depend on the support it gets from other state leaders. So far, Republican Governor Terry Branstad, who recently announced plans to run for a sixth term, has been ambivalent. “I am not ruling anything in or ruling anything out,” he said. Branstad has asked his transportation secretary to come up with equally unpopular alternatives – raising taxes on fuel used in farm machinery and increasing the cost of motor vehicle registrations.
Last year, state lawmakers took steps to raise $4.4 billion over the next decade by indexing the state’s gas tax and levying a 3 percent sales tax on gasoline by June 15. Still, advocates say, local governments also need help with their capital projects. This year, the Maryland General Assembly is considering a bill to establish an infrastructure bank for local transportation projects. Delegate Galen Clagett testified earlier this year that 33 states already have such banks, and Maryland should get on board to keep up with needed capital improvements. His bill would establish an infrastructure bank with revenue from corporate income tax, other state appropriations and investment earnings. Local governments or private entities could then apply for loans from the bank to finance transportation projects.
After years of deadlock on transportation spending, Massachusetts lawmakers last fall passed transportation funding legislation that includes new sales tax measures, a $1 per pack cigarette tax increase and a three-cent increase in the state gas tax – and indexing it to inflation to help fill a $1 billion-per-year funding gap. This year, the Massachusetts House has advanced a bill that authorizes the state to borrow up to $12 billion for transportation projects.
A supplemental funding bill that has already passed in the Michigan House aims to provide $100 million in short-term funding to help counties deal with snow removal bills and another $115 million to boost spending on priority transportation projects. The Senate has its own, more modest bill in the works that allocates $15 million for priority projects with $100 million for snow removal. Both measures, despite strong support from Governor Rick Snyder, face a tough fight. One faction argues that it is just a short-term fix. That is the same group that tried but failed to pass a hike in the gas and diesel fuel taxes last year, as well as a sales tax measure. The other faction is pushing for deeper tax cuts.
The Missouri House Transportation Committee recently approved a proposed constitutional amendment imposing a 1 percent sales tax for 10 years. After extensive polling, supporters of new funding for transportation had settled on the sales tax proposal after testing support for an increased fuel tax (17 cents per gallon) and toll roads. The sales tax proposal is the only one that found majority support in polls and political support from the contractors and other groups willing to fund a campaign to convince voters. Whether or not the sales tax measure will pass is uncertain. While it has proven more popular than other methods in polling, some detractors have argued the tax is regressive, placing the heaviest burden of the sales tax on the poor.
Last year, a Democratic-backed effort to increase the state’s diesel and gas tax rate by 12 cents per gallon over several years failed. But with a 10-year backlog of road maintenance totaling $1.3 billion, some state leaders appear ready to revisit a change in the gas tax. Senate Transportation Chairman Jim Rausch, a Republican, has sponsored a bill would increase the state’s 18-cent-per-gallon fuel tax rate by 4 cents to 22 cents per gallon. If passed, it would be the first state gas tax increase since 1992 and would raise an estimated $28 million the first year.
Last year, Oregon passed a pioneering law that will allow state residents to pay a levy of one-and-a-half-cents per mile driven instead of the state's gas tax, currently 30 cents a gallon. (Participants still have to pay 18.4 cents a gallon in federal gas taxes.) Oregon's pilot program, set to take effect in July 2015, will enable drivers to choose his or her preferred mileage-metering method – a smartphone app, an odometer sensor or periodic mileage checks at DMV inspection sites. The law's early adopters will pay the per-mile road-usage fee for a designated period and receive a refund for what they paid in state gas taxes.
Oregon lawmakers also are discussing allocating 9 percent of lottery proceeds for construction and operation of mass transit and rail and a proposal to raise another $9 million for aviation and marine infrastructure.
Last fall, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a $2.3 billion-per-year transportation funding plan funded primarily by higher fuel taxes. Support for the measure was strong among community leaders and transportation advocates and the bill was signed into law in November by Governor Tom Corbett. Bad roads have become such an issue in the state and the measure has been so popular, Corbett is expected to receive a boost during the upcoming governor’s election – despite breaking his no tax increase pledge. “There is barely a spot in Pennsylvania … that will not see an improvement because of this legislation,” Corbett said at the signing.
The bill is also expected to create construction-related jobs in coming years.
Vermont will be the third state (Wyoming and Maryland are the other two) this year to legislatively increase its gas tax. Governor Peter Shumlin signed the bill last April that raises the gas tax by 5.9 cents. The diesel tax also will increase – by 2 cents on July 1 and another 1 cent next year. Legislators who voted for the gas tax increase did so despite a strong opposition. Without an increase, Vermont risked losing $56 million in federal matching funds.
The Virginia General Assembly last year passed a transportation funding reform package that replaced the state gas tax with a 3.5 percent wholesale tax on fuel and a 6 percent wholesale tax on diesel fuel. The deal also included increasing the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent, and diverting a portion to fund roads. The package of new funding also increased vehicle registration fees by $15 for rail and transit, and all told, is expected to raise $1.4 billion for the state’s transportation system.
Early last year, state lawmakers voted to raise the state excise tax on gasoline by 71 percent (10 cents per gallon). Set to go into effect on July 1 of this year, the state gas levy will go from 14-cents-a-gallon to 24-cents (only Alaska has a lower state gas tax) and is expected to raise $71 million a year in new revenue for the 2014 fiscal year. The revenues will be spent as follows: $47 million for state highways, $16 million for county roads, $6.7 million for city and town roads, and $1.2 million for state parks, including such things as road, boat ramp, off-road and snowmobile trail maintenance.
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.
The transportation talk started early in the day at the Transportation Legislative Breakfast & Briefing in Augusta on February 11. The event has become an annual gathering for transportation and legislative leaders, and this year the talk was about looking ahead to address the pressing transportation funding gap faced by the state. Dozens of legislative leaders attended, as well as members of the sponsoring organizations: MBTA, Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Maine and the Maine Automobile Dealers Association.
Transportation Committee Co-Chair Ken Theriault (D-Madawaska) opened the breakfast with brief remarks about the non-partisan nature of transportation, and offered a compliment to his fellow committee members – several of them in the audience – for their ability to work together.
“I wouldn’t want to be on any other committee,” said Theriault.
The morning program featured two other speakers: MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt, who spoke about the Department of Transportation’s new three-year work plan and John Melrose, a former MaineDOT commissioner and currently MBTA’s senior policy advisor. Bernhardt gave the broad strokes: $2.02 billion in projects budgeted over the next three years; two-thirds of that is slated for capital projects; and 25 percent will go to maintenance and operations.
Bernhardt also brought up the inevitable – the $100-million-per-year in additional funding that MaineDOT needs to keep up with needed maintenance and reconstruction.
“That is down from $150 million a year or two ago,” Bernhardt told the legislators and transportation professionals present, mentioning initiatives at MaineDOT and in the legislature – including prioritization of the state highways and bridges, redistribution of state police budget responsibilities and a $100 million general obligation bond approved by voters in November.
Still, Bernhardt warned of possible complications ahead: “Some of the system is falling apart faster than we thought, so we’re going to look at that again this spring.”
“Two thousand and fourteen looks pretty good,” said the commissioner, as he offered up some specifics on the first year of the work plan: 54 bridge projects, 258 miles of preservation paving, 600 miles of skinny mix paving, 73 miles of highway rehabilitation and reconstruction, 63 spot and safety projects and 128 multimodal projects.
‘They are just getting old’
He also painted a picture of a future that is in doubt, due to a lack of support for new transportation revenues. “This work plan assumes flat funding on the federal and state levels . . . and it also assumes future bonding,” said Bernhardt.
Bernhardt offered a view of other projects on MaineDOT’s horizon, including finalizing the department’s performance measures and updating its long-range needs assessment. He said MaineDOT will update Keeping Our Bridges Safe, a report on the state’s bridges first published in 2008 after the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis. That updated report is likely to show that Maine soon will need to make a considerable investment – similar to the $160 million in Transcap bond funding approved by the legislature in 2008.
“We need to find a way to fix for our bridges,” said Bernhardt. “The average age of our bridges is much older than the rest of the country. They are just getting old and we need $8 million to $12 million to replace each one of them.”
John Melrose, the other speaker on the program and a self-professed “data geek,” offered a look at the data on Maine’s transportation infrastructure and his analysis of municipal, state and federal funding.
“There are some very worrisome things in the data,” said Melrose. He reeled off a number of those “worrisome things”: a 17 percent drop in the gallons of gas sold in Maine; an increase in vehicle fuel efficiency; the fact that the trend among baby boomers is to drive fewer miles after age 45; and that the federal government hasn’t increased the gas tax since 1993.
Melrose told the leaders gathered, that when talking about increasing funding for roads and bridges, the question is … “Who should be paying for this? We need to sort our way through the issue of tax equity.”
He said equity will be the issue in the future, as Maine and other states move into a new era of transportation funding. In Maine, he said, it could mean taxing out-of-state visitors via a transportation-dedicated sales tax or user fee or devising a means to address equity for the “Dodge Ram driver versus the Prius or the Ford Focus driver.”
Melrose also mentioned efforts other states have enlisted to address their funding shortfalls: public-private partnerships; increases in state gas taxes (Wyoming is one of a slew of states that recently increased its gas tax – by 10 cents); and a vehicle-miles-traveled fee being implemented in Oregon.
The breakfast briefing concluded with a question-and-answer session before legislators headed off to business at the state capitol and elsewhere. Representative Terry Hayes (D-Buckfield) suggested that she and other legislators ask their constituents how they would prefer to fund transportation. She suggested approaching it as a “customer survey to to see what they say.”
Other questions included one about TIGER grants (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) (Commissioner Bernhardt said Maine appreciates past TIGER grants and plans to submit proposals in future TIGER funding rounds); building more bike lanes (MaineDOT follows a “Complete Streets” policy when reconstructing state highways, and that includes incorporating bike lanes in the redesign); and the inadequacy of skinny mix paving as a fix for rural highways where bad pavement is causing damage to commercial and private vehicles (with the cost of reconstruction between $2 million and $4 million a mile, there is simply not enough to go around).
FMI: The 2014 Legislative Breakfast & Briefing was sponsored by the MBTA in partnership with Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Council of Engineering Companies and the Maine Automobile Dealers Association. For more information about this and other MBTA events, visit www.MBTAonline.org.
EJP’s apprenticeship program proves a valuable asset for the growing waterworks company
By Kathryn Buxton
Robbie Chadwick remembers the day in 2007 that Peter Prescott, E.J. Prescott CEO, announced he wanted to establish an apprenticeship program. Prescott talked about wanting a program that could take raw talent and develop it through a long-term training program modeled on a highly successful program developed at Cianbro, Maine’s largest construction company.
“Peter and Peter Vigue [chairman and CEO of Cianbro] are good friends and they had been talking about the problems of finding good, skilled workers,” remembered Chadwick. Vigue’s company already had founded its apprenticeship program, and Prescott saw the opportunity to create a similar one at E.J. Prescott (EJP) to develop a pool of skilled workers to help the company grow.
“Peter tasked me and Bob Moody (head of EJP’s Safety and Training department) to create the program at the Friday Manager’s Meeting and that evening, we scribbled out a rough plan on a cocktail napkin,” recounted Chadwick.
The two long-time EJP employees had worked their way up through the company, and they drew heavily on their own experience of learn-as-you-go. That first night, they broke the company’s business down discipline by discipline and planned for a program that would give students time to learn every aspect, from inside and outside sales to service and installation.
“We decided on two years, because that’s about how long it is before new employees really know what they’re doing,” said Chadwick.
Moody and Chadwick dubbed the new program the “University of Prescott” – UP for short – and while not a true university, the program certainly provides its students with a well-rounded education in the waterworks industry, as well as a bright future in a growing business.
The investment of time and resources to create and maintain an apprenticeship program benefits the company as much as its graduates. Since the company’s founding in 1955, EJP has grown by filling niches in the industry. It took off in the 1960s when the company introduced the first factory-direct trucking service for cast iron pipe in New England and, in doing so, expanded their truck fleet and product line. In the 1970s, EJP opened its first two branches, one in Concord, New Hampshire and the other in Montpelier, Vermont. In 1978, the company founded a new division, Quality Water Products (QWP), in South Barre, Massachusetts. In the 1980s, six new branches were opened in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Indiana. During this time, EJP started two new divisions – PEP Transportation and Meter Backflow Services (MBS).
The early 1990’s brought further expansion, with additional branches opening in Maine, Indiana, Ohio and Massachusetts. A new location in Rhode Island was established in 1994 and Ohio added a branch in 1995. The company added two more branches in New York in 1997 and 2000 and opened another branch in South Burlington, Vermont in 2002.
In 2001, EJP bought Red Hed Supply & Manufacturing and that enabled the company to expand its distribution in Lincoln, Rhode Island and Cape Cod, and North Hatfield Massachusetts. (The Lincoln manufacturing facility in Rhode Island still operates under the Red Hed name.) In 2005, EJP added branches in Keene, New Hampshire and Syracuse, New York. In 2006, the company expanded to Jeffersonville, Indiana. The company opened PPF (Plastic Pipe Fabrication) in 2008, a company that manufactures prefabricated and custom piping components, manholes and catch basins.
With so many interrelated divisions and 26 different locations reaching from New England to the Midwest, a big challenge has been finding the right people to grow with the company, according to EJP Director of Human Resources Bryan Flagg.
“For us, the University of Prescott is like an employment agency,” said Flagg. He noted that by enrolling up to eight new students in the program annually, the company has a ready pool of skilled talent upon which it can draw.
A program like UP fills a profound need for both the company and for the young people fortunate enough to participate in the program. Statistics show 16 percent of Americans aged 16-24 are out of school and out of work. In Maine, the figure is even higher – 16.6 percent, and the impact of prolonged unemployment can have a lasting effect on a region’s economy and on individuals and their families.
Apprenticeship programs like those developed by EJP and Cianbro, attempt to address the heart of the problem by giving young people skills that lead to long-term economic independence.
Experience is not essential, according to Safety and Training Director Moody: “We train them in all aspects of our business from working in the yard all the way through what we people in the home office do. We don’t look for any experience. Experience won’t help you because we want to teach you our way.”
First, though, they have to complete the application and make it through the interview process. The interviews have two parts. Initially candidates meet with the company’s division heads.
“We sit down with them and basically try to talk them out of it,” said Chadwick. “We tell them about the long hours and the low pay. We let them know that this is not easy.”
Candidates who remain undaunted and impress the division heads are often invited to interview with EJP’s owners and executive committee, including President Steven Prescott and CEO Peter Prescott. They also spend time with current and past UP students.
“We don’t want to see anyone fail, so we take our time and really get to know the candidates and let them get to know us,” said Flagg. Over the years since the program began, he said, the best candidates fit a certain profile. “I look at their spirit and willingness to listen and their flexibility. This is a crazy business, so you need to be ready to handle change and be a problem solver. You need work together and be part of the team to be successful.”
Once selected, students are assigned a mentor, a company veteran who guides them through the program.
Chadwick is quick to point out that the first two years can seem like a challenge. Students are paid a small salary and the hours are long. The “classroom” moves week-to-week and sometimes day-to-day, depending on which EJP location has a project that can add a skill to the student’s portfolio.
While UP students are asked to give a lot, they get a lot in return – a trade and a range of marketable skills that are honed on the job.
Upon graduation, each student is guaranteed a job – either in delivery, estimating, the warehouse, inside sales, outside sales, division manager or in service. The program’s depth and expansive reach has paid off with good retention rates. Sixty percent of UP students who have completed the program since 2008 are still with the company.
Chadwick says the program has improved since it was first launched in 2008, and today is the first apprenticeship program developed for the waterworks industry that has been accredited by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Tyler Wing, one of the current class of five University of Prescott students, has enthusiastically embraced the program. A former National Guardsman, he said he was drawn to the program because it offers the opportunity to “step into a lifelong career.” Wing did his research, talking to program graduates who wholeheartedly endorsed it. He applied and hasn’t looked back since. “It was definitely a good idea to do this,” said Wing.
While he originally thought he would like to go into sales, he has discovered an affinity for service work in the field.
Wing’s experience is typical, according to Hanrahan. “Being able to move students around and expose them to the broad spectrum of what we do at EJP, that’s huge,” said Hanrahan. “That’s the beauty of this program.”
In the past, UP students have started by earning their 10-hour OSHA certificate. Chadwick said, that after one student recently completed requirements for a 30-hour certificate, the plan is to make the 30-hour certificate a new standard for incoming apprentices.
“Safety is really important in this business, so it’s a good way to start them off,” said Chadwick.
The training is diverse. During the two years, students make at least one presentation to company executives, they run a division for a week and, of course, they have lots of customer interaction while making deliveries and performing service calls. Students also spend a month at EJP’s offices in Indiana and Ohio. That gives them the opportunity to experience the different types of work and company cultures at the different divisions. As they progress through the program, students often go where they are needed most, filling in on big jobs or providing back up when an employee is out sick.
“After six months, you begin to see where their talents and gifts lay,” said Chadwick, who described the program as “an extended job interview.” So if a UP student likes working out of the Vermont office, Chadwick said, he or she is going to work a little harder there in the hopes of making a good impression.
William Terry, a marketing representative working out of the Gardiner, Maine office, was the very first graduate of the program, and he is an example of the program’s success. UP has given him a vocation and he has continued his education since graduation, with support from his employer, taking classes in hydraulics, erosion control and other subjects.
Being able to attract smart, motivated young talent like Terry and Wing, according to Chadwick, will be the keystone of EJP’s success in the future. He noted that like so many Maine companies, EJP’s management is top heavy with baby boomers who eventually will be looking to retire.
“Look around and, in 10 or 20 years, those will be University of Prescott graduates in those jobs,” Chadwick said. n
FMI: To learn more about the University of Prescott and download an application, visit www.EJPrescott.com.
75 and counting
This year, the Maine Better Transportation turns 75. We came into being in 1939. And here it is, 2014. Back then we were coming out of the Great Depression. And here we are, coming out of the Great Recession.
Back then, the state’s roads and bridges had fallen into dangerous disrepair through poor maintenance and neglect. Members of the newly formed group – community and business leaders who recognized transportation investments as an excellent way to build the state economy – were concerned about how Maine was going to finance its rebuilding. They knew Maine needed a modern and reliable highway system, so we could get around and stay connected with the rest of the country.
Sometimes it seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same. Because here we are still battling away. But, the fact is, much has changed. And for the good.
Prior to 1939, the Maine State Highway Commission was a woefully small and underfunded arm of state government, incapable of doing what was needed to move the economy forward. Today, the Maine Department of Transportation oversees a vast network of roads, bridge, aviation, rail and marine infrastructure that truly connects our communities.
The Maine Good Roads Association, as MBTA originally was named, was chartered on September 25, 1939. From the start, the organization’s mission was to advocate for public funding of state infrastructure – primarily for roads and bridges to accommodate the public’s growing love of automobile travel (the vintage postcard, above, shows Augusta’s Water Street full of automobiles in the late 1930s).
The early order of business was to push the Maine Legislature for an amendment dedicating Highway Fund revenue solely for highway purposes. That was a hard-fought battle at a time when the state was struggling to recover from the Depression. The amendment finally passed in 1944, and the association never looked back. Soon after, the association got behind the formation of the Maine Turnpike Authority in order to bring about a modern highway linking Maine with New Hampshire, Boston and, eventually, the Maritimes. We were on a roll.
Today, we advocate for all forms of transportation—rail, marine, transit and aviation. In another 75 years, maybe we’ll be advocating for space travel, as well.
Icy, cold and expensive
By Dale F. Doughty, C.G., MaineDOT Director of Maintenance & Operations and Brian Burne, P.E., MaineDOT State Highway Maintenance Engineer
MaineDOT has a fleet of roughly 400 plow trucks that are used to control snow and ice on approximately 7,600 lane miles of Maine’s state roads. In addition, another 700 lane miles are contracted with municipalities and private contractors. Like most entities that control snow and ice on high-speed, high-volume highways, MaineDOT uses an anti-icing approach that is very effective for returning roads to bare pavement soon after a storm ends.
Maine typically receives an annual snowfall of roughly 60 to 80 inches in the southern and eastern parts of the state and about 110 to 120 inches in the western mountains and northern areas. Average winter temperatures are usually between 13 F and 23 F degrees, but minimum temperatures into the -20s F and below are not uncommon. MaineDOT usually plans on an average of 30 “treatable” events each winter. This number has a broad range across the state, from western mountains to the southeastern coast.
Overall, the winter of 2013-2014 has been icy, cold and expensive. When only considering the average of 33 treatable events that we have received to date (Mid-March), this winter appears to be only 10 percent worse than average. However, when considering the nature of the actual events, as well as the deep freeze that has often followed them, it becomes much more apparent why overall costs are running 20 percent higher than normal.
Material usage is often a point of focus in any snow and ice program. This is not only due to the fact that material costs account for one-third of winter expenditures, but also because materials can have a direct impact on safety and a lasting impact on the environment.
Like MaineDOT’s snow and ice program as a whole, material selection and use is a delicate balance between cost, safety (level-of-service), and the environment. Unfortunately, every material has its drawbacks. Rock salt is by far the most commonly used material due to its effectiveness at depressing the freeze point of water combined with its relatively low cost. However, rock salt is temperature dependent and as the temperature drops, it becomes less effective. Therefore, this winter we had used roughly 120,000 tons of salt by mid-March and there are more storms to come. In comparison, we normally anticipate using about 100,000 tons in an average winter.
The following graph indicates how overall material usage has changed since 1997, how that relates to current-day material costs (projected back in time) and, in recent years, how the average number of storms have varied. Note that this year’s costs, as of the middle of March, may approach the costs of 07-08 and 10-11. Yet, as noted above the number of treatable events is significantly less. Repeated periods of wet icy precipitation, timing of storms and deep cold swings all contribute to the cost of this year’s winter.
MaineDOT works closely with its northern tier state counterparts to ensure that we are making the most of the latest technologies, equipment and strategies. Participation in the Clear Roads organization – a pooled fund winter highway operations research group – has been an essential link to the national and global snow and ice fighting knowledge base. The Clear Roads web site may be visited at clearroads.org. One recently completed project captured the winter severity across the continental United States. The following graphic shows that Maine is among those states with the most challenging winters based on a number of environmental factors.
MaineDOT’s drive to continuously improve its snow and ice program spurs numerous research projects during the winter months. This research involves everything from new equipment, to new materials, or new techniques. In recent years, our research has focused on the snow fighters primary tool – the snow plow. In addition, MaineDOT has been expanding the use of GPS technology to better track the location of trucks and materials used. To date, nearly 25 percent of the snow plow fleet has been outfitted with this technology and we will continue to expand this percentage over the next six to seven years.
Finally, we invite you to join us in thanking Maine’s thousands of snow fighters: state, local and private. The technology described above saves us all money and produces a better, safer service but, it has made their jobs much more complicated. Even with technology advancements, snow fighting remains physically demanding. When the rest of us were preparing for this year’s Christmas and New Year Holidays, most of those snow fighters were on the road, day and night away from their families, keeping us all safe. It is that dedication that keeps Maine “Open for Business” for the five months of winter.
FMI: To learn more about MaineDOT’s snow and ice program, please visit http://www.maine.gov/mdot/winterdriving/snowandice.htm.
Warm send off
E.T.T.I. wishes warm winds and smooth sailing for Bruce Hubbard
The invitation to ETTI’s farewell party for Bruce Hubbard said it all in rhyme: “HUB Is Out or Here! . . . Forget the black tie; it’s no formal affair. Come dressed for the tropics, it’s a casual affair. We’ll eat, drink, dance and laugh as well as reminisce. It’s a gathering for HUB, he surely will be missed!”
The party lived up to its laid-back promise, with live music by Motor Booty Affair and co-workers past and present stopping in to pay their respects.
Hubbard has worked in the industry and made a lot of friends since he first landed a job driving a fuel truck for H.E. Sargent in 1968. He first worked for the Sargent family for 19 years – as a loader operator, a foreman and a project supervisor – building highways in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts – before he decided he had to make some important changes in his life.
“I was on the road so much and my girls were growing up without me,” said Hubbard. So he and his wife Sandy founded their own construction firm – Hubbard Construction. Work was still very busy – the Hubbards did sitework for clients throughout the midcoast region – but Hubbard was able to stick closer to home and be there to see his girls grow up, Robyn and Stephanie. The business was a success, and when the kids were safely off to college, Bruce and Sandy sold their business to Harry C. Crooker. Hubbard worked for Crooker for several years, before he took a job with CPM Constructors in Freeport for three years.
Then, Scott Kelly of ETTI asked Hubbard to join the directional drilling company based in Lisbon, Maine. The firm had been founded by Scott’s dad just eight years earlier and was the first directional drilling company in Maine. Hubbard worked there for the past 11 years as vice president of operations, helping the company through an intense period of growth fueled by a statewide effort to upgrade utility, water and wastewater infrastructure.
Throughout much of his career, Hubbard has been both a mentee and a mentor. It was at his first job as a young adult that he gained an appreciation for how a guiding hand could turn a green employee into a career achiever. “If you wanted to go places and learn new things, the Sargents knew how to point you in the right direction,” remembered Hubbard.
During the past decade-plus, Hubbard turned the tables to become a mentor to dozens of transportation students, helping to raise funds for the MBTA Educational Foundation Scholarship Fund and AGC Maine scholarships.
For the MBTA, Hubbard has been a tireless booster of the foundation’s scholarship fund, year-after-year outselling his fellow committee members during the annual Super Raffle ticket sales. This past December, as he has in the past, he passed on his prize for selling the most tickets to three scholarship students attending the MBTA Holiday Meeting.
“It’s all been for the kids,” said Hubbard. “It has been great to see these kids grow up professionally and join our organization.”
Since his official retirement from ETTI in January, Hubbard and his wife Sandy have hardly slowed down. They have spent time in Florida with friends from Massachusetts and Maine and also attended CON EXPO in Las Vegas. Talking on the phone from Las Vegas, Hubbard notes that the weather has been great – 61 degrees and sunny – and the company very good.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic,” said Hubbard. “There are thousands of people out here, but we’ve managed to catch up friends. We’ve had cocktails with Paul and Patty Labbe and seen the Bancrofts and Charlie Cianchette and, of course, the delegation from ETTI.”
Bruce and Sandy plan to head back to New England when the weather warms up. He plans to continue serving on the Northeast Trenchless Association board of directors, as well as his work with the MBTA Educational Foundation, AGC of Maine Education Foundation and MUST (Managing Underground Safety & Training), an organization that promotes underground facility safety through training efforts in cooperation with Dig Safe®, underground facility owners, private locating companies, municipalities, excavators and regulatory agencies. He also hopes to have more time with his grown daughters and grandchildren: Stephanie is an engineer working for Wright & Pierce and Robyn is now a schoolteacher in Brunswick with two children, Aaiden who is three and Nolan just born this February 7.