Maine Trails, June - July '14
Inside Cover
President’s Message
'Worst Road' crowned
Naples Bridge award
75th MBTA Annual
Road trip: Eastport
Fix It Now! profile: Washington County
2014-17 Strategic Planning
Construction season
MaineDOT View
President’s Message
Prototype for change. Expect more meetings like those in Blue Hill and Eastport. By Jim Hanley.
 
Cover Story
’Worst Road’ crowned. Winner and finalists for statewide contest announced.

Maine News
Naples award. The Naples bridge and causeway wins AASHTO honors.

Association News
Then and now. Past and present come together at MBTA 75th.
 
Road trip. Eastport meeting is local forum for Fix It Now!

Fix It Now! profile: Washington County.

Strategic planning report. Executive summary of new MBTA plan.

Member News
Construction season. Scenes from construction projects underway in Maine.

MaineDOT View
Complete Streets. MaineDOT’s customer-focused policy. By Bruce Van Note, MaineDOT Deputy Commissioner

 


President’s Message
We’ve created a prototype for change

By Jim Hanley
 
When people come together to talk and address an issue, good things can happen. That thought struck me when I stepped into my new role as MBTA president and presided over a Fix It Now! community forum on transportation in June.
 
That good things can come from sharing opinions and looking for solutions is the concept behind the MBTA’s Fix It Now! campaign which in recent months has taken its message – that Maine’s transportation infrastructure needs fixing – on the road.
 
MBTA used the occasion of its annual Eastport meeting to hold the Fix It Now! forum. We invited local and regional leaders to talk about what’s not getting fixed in their area at a panel discussion preceding the organization’s evening meeting. It was a chance to hear people like Washington County Council of Government Executive Director Judy East, Easport Port Authority Director Chris Gardiner, H.O. Bouchard company executive Steve Whitcomb and former Milbridge Selectman Gary Willey talk about what matters most to the people who rely on the local transportation system every day.
 
Front and center at the Eastport meeting was MBTA Senior Policy Consultant John Melrose. John has been instrumental in helping to put together the data behind the Fix It Now! campaign, and he is an excellent spokesperson for the cause. He truly understands the full depth and breadth of the problems that Maine faces as we work to find ways to fund our transportation system.
 
A month earlier MBTA was asked to participate in a meeting along similar lines, specifically in regards to the Route 15 corridor between Blue Hill and Stonington. Maine Senator Brian Langley (R-Hancock County) had requested the meeting with MaineDOT. Several MBTA members were present, along with John Melrose and Kate Dufour from the Maine Municipal Association. About 80 residents and leaders from 11 Hancock County communities gathered in Blue Hill on May 10.
 
This is the beginning of what we are planning will be a concerted effort at outreach. Because to make change – to convince our elected officials that we need to spend more on our roads, bridges, rail, ports and aviation infrastructure – the MBTA needs to know about local concerns, specific infrastructure that people want to see fixed or improved. This is how we build a vocal constituency: people who will get fired up and call their legislator to demand something be done.
 
MBTA has always believed in getting out and gathering the facts and building support for transportation funding. This, in fact, is how we began – pulling together different audiences with a stake in improving transportation in their area, in order to improve the state’s economy and make it competitive.
 
It’s with this sort of local involvement that MBTA is able to remain strong and focused on its central mission – firing up people, getting community leaders to speak up and demand that Maine do what it must and spend what it should to fix its busted roads and modernize its ports and airports. This is important, because without good transportation, the state cannot prosper.
 
In this light, with this issue of Maine Trails we feature the most recent news on MBTA’s strategic planning process that recently wrapped up. The MBTA board of directors contracted with Bob Harris, a consultant who has worked with organizations around the world to develop strategic plans, define board responsibilities and train staff to meet the challenges facing non-profits.
 
Suffice it to say, much has changed since 2006, the last time the board underwent this process. And working with Bob, we were able to get a clear picture of what we need to do to continue to grow and be a powerful force for change during these challenging times.
 
As part of the strategic planning process, even the MBTA’s mission statement has been scrutinized. Our new mission is this: “To be the leading voice for safe, efficient, reliable multi-modal transportation infrastructure to enhance the economy and quality of life.”
 
As evidenced in Blue Hill and Eastport, change is definitely in the air and we are determined to be a strong voice advocating for that change. The Blue Hill and Eastport meetings, we hope, will serve as a prototype for change.
 
We were successful in bringing together a diverse group and hearing their concerns and hopes for the future. Those relationships that we are building and the knowledge we are gaining, will be power behind the MBTA’s voice for change.
 

So I look forward to the coming year and hope you will join me and the MBTA board as we continue to take MBTA’s message of change and renewal on the road as we all work to “Fix It Now!”

 


Route 15 crowned ‘Worst Road in Maine’

Harrowing tale of Blue Hill-to-Stonington ride wins top spot among 220 contest entries

Gabriel Zacchai, a resident of Camden who wrote about a five-mile-per-hour trip on Route 15 to from Blue Hill to Stonington this spring, is winner of the 2014 Worst Road in Maine Contest. Zacchai, a Camden resident who works for the Camden National Bank, is frequently on the road for his job as facilities specialist. He had been contemplating entering two other routes he frequently travels – Old County Road in Rockland and Route 131 from Belfast to Appleton. But he became convinced that Route 15 was the worst when he had to make a trip to Stonington to deliver equipment to the local bank branch. 
 
That trip, during the height of Maine’s annual pothole season, was long and arduous, according to Zacchai, “I drove over 40 miles at about 5 miles-per-hour with a file cabinet that was determined to jump from the back seat into the front seat with me. If you live in Stonington, and you need anything from anywhere, I guess you take a boat."
 
‘We know it’s bad’
 
MBTA President Jim Hanley noted that choosing a winner was challenging this year, because the cold, snowy winter and long thaw-and-freeze cycle this spring really took a heavy toll on state roads. The contest had a record number of entries from almost every corner of the state. Hanley noted that one telltale sign of Route 15’s bad condition was the number of times it was nominated during the contest that ran from early April through mid May.
 
“We know this road is bad, because we had more than a dozen entries come in for Route 15,” said Hanley. Still, Zacchai’s entry was special – from the photo of the “Frost Heave” sign he photographed during his trip to his story of trying to get from Blue Hill to Stonington to deliver office furniture for his employer.
 
Zacchai’s entry highlights the problems that bad roads cause Mainers every day. Research shows that the average Maine driver pays an extra $296 every year in extra vehicle maintenance due to rough roads. Gabriel’s story also speaks to other impacts of rough roads on daily life in Maine.
 
“We are caught in a bad cycle that, at best, means we only have funding to fill the potholes on so many important regional roads like Route 15,” added Hanley. MBTA’s research shows that Maine’s federal funding for roads is decreasing as vehicles become more fuel efficient, and the state currently has no alternative funding in place. Said Hanley: “We have got to make roads a bigger priority because it is hurting our economy.”
 
Safety concerns
 
“What is the Worst Road in Maine?” MBTA first asked that question in 2010. In fact, the organization turned the question into a social media contest and launched it on a special Facebook page, www.Facebook/FixMaineRoads. In 2010, more than 1,000 people “liked” the contest on Facebook.
 
Martha Jordan of Turner was the contest’s very first winner for her entry, Route 219 from Turner to Leeds. She sent in a photo of a bent rim and the ensuing $1,000 repair bill.
 
“This contest really works to get at the heart of problems that bad roads cause Mainers every day,” said Hanley. He noted, that in addition to the added mainetance costs, bad roads have even greater implications for Maine drivers and communities that rely on the network of rural highways, arterials and collector roads to connect residents to schools, shopping and work and to take Maine products to market. Lost economic opportunities and increased business costs are major concerns. Safety is another.
 
Currently, between 46 and 91 percent of the pavement on Maine’s arterial and collector roads is ranked poor or worse, compared to 31 percent nationally. And on average, Maine bridges are older and in worse condition than the rest of the nation’s bridges (15 percent of Maine bridges are structurally deficient and another 18 percent are functionally obsolete).
 
“Gabriel’s entry highlights that bad roads not only slow down our economy, they are potentially very dangerous,” said Hanley.
 
A recent report by TRIP, The Road Information Program, noted 161 of 164 fatal Maine crashes (98 percent) occurred on rural roads. That number was up significantly over 2009 (86 percent) when the data was last examined. The national average is closer to 50 percent.
 
“There is data that shows there are more accidents on rural roads that aren’t in good shape,” MBTA Executive Director Maria Fuentes told the Bangor Daily News.
 
Said Fuentes: “It’s a safety issue, and it’s an economic issue. And I think it’s something that impacts every person in the state.”
 
Here’s a look at the winner of the 2014 Worst Road in Maine contest and the seven runners up.
 
2014 WORST ROAD IN MAINE: Route 15 Blue Hill to Stonington, Gabriel Zacchai
 
Zacchai in his official entry: “As a 42-year-old native Mainer, I can say with absolute certainty that this is THE WORST PAVED ROAD I HAVE EVER TRIED TO MOVE A CAR OVER IN MY LIFE. I THOUGHT THE FRONT END OF THE CAR WAS GONNA COME OFF.” The trip, during the height of Maine’s annual pothole season, was long and arduous, according to Zacchai. “I drove over 40 miles at about 5 miles-per-hour with a file cabinet that was determined to jump from the back seat into the front seat with me. If you live in Stonington, and you need anything from anywhere, I guess you take a boat."
 
RUNNER UP: Route 15, Rockwood, Lisa Hargreaves
 
Lisa Hargreaves, who likened another section of Route 15 in Rockwood to riding on the surface of the moon, was one of seven runners up in the 2014 contest. Hargreaves wrote: “Traveling along Route 15 in my Jeep Wrangler made me think of what it might feel like riding in the lunar rover over the moon's surface. There's no need for the 25 MPH road sign there; no vehicle could hold up going that fast right now!”
 
Hargreaves, who is from Wiscasset, and was on vacation when she took the photo of her almost-winning entry on a snowy day this spring, said her friends have asked her why she didn’t enter a road closer to home. “They say that Lincoln County roads are the worst,” said Hargreaves. “But no, this was bad.”
 
RUNNER UP: Route 183, Sullivan, Bruce Munger
 
Bruce Munger of Sullivan is a firefighter who already is famous locally for capturing his entry, Route 183 / Tunk Lake Road, in Sullivan, on film. His entry, showing flowers planted in one particularly large pothole, was a topic of discussion on country music station Q106.5 by morning deejay J.R. Mitchell. Munger said he did not plant the flowers, but happened along the road shortly after another local resident did. He said she planted the flowers so her daughter would see and avoid the giant pothole.
 
Munger, who has quite a sense of humor, said residents made a sport of driving on Route 183. He wrote in his official entry: “Pot holes big enough to double as plant pots. During the Winter Olympics, we had our own local events on this road, including the pothole slalom and several big jumps over the frost heaves, with scraped asphalt providing testimony to the many hard landings.”
 
RUNNER UP: Route 121, Oxford, Amy Brousseau
 
Amy Brousseau, wrote in about the economic hardship caused by bad roads, such as her entry Route 121 in Oxford. “I think this [entry] should win because Oxford and Androscoggin counties are two of the poorest counties in Maine and residents of these counties can ill afford the car repairs,” she wrote. “I've driven many miles in Maine and notice that southern Maine gets all the attention. The area I'm suggesting for repairs is very near the casino. If Maine is a state that wants to bill itself as Vacationland, it needs to address this area too.”
 
Contacted for this contest this summer, Brousseau was pleased to report that there has been some relief. She said she was glad to see that paving trucks have been out on the road recently putting down a layer of fresh asphalt. Her section of road is part of a light capital paving project extending through the heart of the region, including in Mechanic Falls, Minot, Oxford, Albany Township, Waterford and Sweden.
 
RUNNER UP: Route 35, Harrison, Angela Maddocks
 
Safety was a frequent concern of Mainers entering the contest. That was the case for Angela Maddocks who wrote on her entry about seeing “sparks fly” when cars hit frost heaves on Route 35 in Harrison and spoke of a family member who was in a fatal accident on the road. Maddocks’ frustration with the situation is evident in both her written and photo entry, that features a sign on the road that reads: “ROAD SUCKS next 11 miles.”
 
She wrote: “The frost heaves are extreme!!! I've seen sparks flying out from under vehicles as they accidentally hit these frost heaves or pot holes. This road is only getting worse as it is left neglected, and now that the spring thaw has begun, the road now floods over with water in places were the culverts are not sufficient. . . Not to mention the fatal accident which happened down in the intersection by my house that the news said was related to frost heaves and, unfortunately, was the mother of my niece and nephew. These roads are ridiculous!!!!!!!”

RUNNER UP: Mill Street, Madawaska, John Young
 
Sometimes the photo and the entrant’s story combine to tell about the bigger toll of bad roads on Maine daily life. That was the case of Mill Street in Madawaska, nominated by John Young. He wrote about the impact bad roads can have on the cross-border economy. Still, his photo entry of a parent navigating potholes with a child in a baby stroller on Mill Street, emphasized concerns about safety.
 
Young wrote: “I believe this road should win the worst road in Maine contest because it is a disgraceful way to welcome our neighbors from Canada to our country. Cars and trucks have to drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid all the potholes.”

 


Maine News
Naples Bridge wins AASHTO award

The Maine Department of Transportation’s Bay of Naples Bridge and Causeway Project was named a regional winner at the seventh annual America’s Transportation Awards. The award is given by the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Wyman & Simpson, Inc. of Richmond served as primary contractor on the project.
 
The Quality of Life/Community Development category recognizes a transportation project that has contributed to the general quality of life and economic development of local communities. These innovative projects better connect people to businesses, jobs, health care facilities, and recreational activities while encouraging a mix of transportation modes. Priority is given to projects that enhance and support transit and non-motorized transportation. Project nominees should demonstrate community involvement and interaction, and must illustrate the public benefit for customers/users (e.g. – safety, economic development, improved mobility, access to public lands/open spaces).
 
The competition web site states Maine DOT worked with the community of Naples, located in the heart of the lakes region, to replace a charming but inconvenient movable bridge. The project created a new bridge and causeway with enhanced green space and improved mobility. The new bridge minimized traffic delays, and the new green space and pedestrian access created a pedestrian-friendly environment, as well as civic space for community events and performances.
 
The new Bay of Naples Bridge opened to vehicle traffic on May 18, 2013. The bridge is part of a $9.7 million project that included construction of a new bridge and restoration of the Naples causeway, including a 15-foot wide boardwalk at the Long Lake side of the bridge and a seawall on the Brandy Pond side.
 
The bridge replaced a 1954 “swing bridge” and is a solid steel-reinforced structure that is 20 feet thick and rises 10 feet higher than the old bridge at its peak. The bridge also features a 30-foot wide navigation channel for marine traffic, an important feature in this lakeside community.
 
Planning for the bridge included considerable input from the Naples community, that initially was opposed to the plan to build a fixed bridge, according to MaineDOT’s application for the award: “When MaineDOT came to town to replace the structurally deficient swing span bridge with a fixed bridge in 2006, the outcry was swift and nearly unanimous. . . A ‘save our bridge’ group quickly coalesced to fight the cost-effective fixed bridge option that would also improve navigational clearance for boaters and eliminate traffic delays on Route 302, the east-west highway linking Maine and New Hampshire.
 
But MaineDOT’s persistent and patient public outreach efforts eventually paid off and the town of Naples formed a working group that included former naysayers, town officials and MaineDOT staff to develop the design concept.”
 

The competition is co-sponsored by AAA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

 


Past and present come together at 75th MBTA Annual

Then and now

There was a lot of looking back and forward going on at the MBTA Annual Meeting, May 5 at the Augusta Civic Center. The yearly get together marked the beginning of the organization’s 75th year. It also gave leaders in the transportation field a chance to look back over the recent past.
 
The meeting began with a panel discussion with MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt and Maine Turnpike Authority (MTA) Executive Director Peter Mills. The two transportation chiefs each gave a brief look into the future.
 
‘Not there yet’
 
Bernhardt looked back at the recent past, and spoke about the agency’s internal efforts to develop an asset management system that has resulted in the state’s priority classifications for state highways and is part of a national effort to develop a transparent method for allocating scarce public road funding.
 
“We are not there yet, but we are ahead of a lot of other states,” said Bernhardt.
 
His address encompassed a wide range of other matters, from the current funding shortfall and efforts at the federal level to pass a new transportation authorization, to work underway to update MaineDOT’s long-range plan, and a collaboration with New Hampshire on a TIGER (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery) grant to help fund the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge replacement.
 
He noted that all indications were that federal funding would remain flat at best when the new authorization passed, and that there was unlikely to be an increase to the federal gas tax. He also told the audience that alternative funding discussions remain in a stalemate, including a recent call by President Obama to open up tolling on the interstate. He alluded to the challenges of undertaking any kind of change in the current political climate: “If people get nervous in Brunswick about a train layover facility, they will go bananas over tolling,” said Bernhardt.
 
The MTA’s Mills looked toward the near future. He discussed what was ahead for the turnpike, including the upcoming sale of $30 million in bonds that the MTA will use to purchase the southernmost 1.9-mile stretch of I-95. That money will be used to help fund MaineDOT’s share of costs for replacement of the High Level Bridge connecting Maine and New Hampshire.
 
He also mentioned that the MTA board was expected to soon make a decision on open road tolling versus all-electronic tolling at its mainline plaza in York. The issue, he said, was one of fairness to all of the turnpike’s users. Data indicates that, if the MTA opted for all-electronic tolling, it would lose substantial revenues because the turnpike is not legally able to collect from drivers in most other states. “That funding would have to be made up by raising tolls on other customers,” said Mills, adding that those customers are largely Maine drivers.
 
The main event
 
After the panel discussion adjourned, MBTA members and friends gathered for a welcome reception before heading into the annual banquet, a vote on the slate of new officers and introduction of new and renewing board members.
 
Outgoing MBTA President Tom Gorrill welcomed the crowd to the MBTA’s 75th annual meeting, then introduced several notable audience members including Representative Bob Nutting and Republican Congressional candidate Kevin Raye. He also recognized past MBTA presidents members in the audience – Ralph Leonard, Don Raye, Mark Barnes, Herb Sargent, Phil Grondin, Jr., Steve Sawyer, Lauren Corey, Tim Folster, Tom Martin, Randy Mace and Doug Hermann – a strong showing for the big anniversary.
 
Gorrill gave the group a quick recap of the past year, the organization’s 74th year, and two important initiatives during his tenure as president: the development of the MBTA’s new Fix It Now! campaign and a new strategic plan.
 
“For me, the capstone of the year has been completing the new MBTA Strategic Plan,” said Gorrill. “Today the Board approved it, and we will be getting a copy to all of our members, posting it on the web site, and referring to it as we move forward over the next four to five years.”
 
“Seventy-five years. . . Wow. Very few of us in this room have reached that milestone,” said Jim Hanley as he stepped up to the podium for the first time as MBTA’s new president. “Seventy-five years ago, the average cost of a new house was $3,800. Average annual wages were $1,730. A loaf of bread cost 8 cents and a gallon of gas cost 10 cents. And it wasn’t too long before 1939 that the country suffered through the Great Depression.”
 
He continued: “So fast forward seven decades. In the last six years, Maine’s transportation system has weathered the longest, deepest recession since the 1930s.”
 
Still, Hanley was able to offer up a list of accomplishments that occurred during the recent recession, achieved thanks to the perseverance and vision of many of those gathered: MaineDOT’s I-295 rubblization projects; the Maine Turnpike Authority’s first open road tolling project in New Gloucester; NNEPRA’s expansion of passenger rail to Brunswick; port improvements at all three of Maine’s deepwater ports; and a major expansion at the Portland Jetport. Hanley also counted all of the positive forces working toward increased investment in Maine’s transportation system – an electorate that continually shows its support for transportation investment at the polls, support from local officials and a strong working relationship with the Maine Turnpike Authority and MaineDOT management teams.

 


Road trip: Eastport

MBTA takes the Fix It Now! campaign Downeast

It was anything but business as usual at the MBTA’s annual Washington County Meeting, June 5 at the Eastport Chowder House. The organization regularly holds regional issue meetings in South Portland, Eastport Presque Isle, Bangor and Augusta and took advantage of the opportunity to gather transportation, business and government leaders for a pre-dinner panel discussion about the condition of the Downeast region’s transportation network – road, rail, marine and recreational infrastructure – and local priorities. The panel discussion was a regional kick-off for the MBTA’s statewide Fix It Now! campaign and featured presentations by John Melrose, former MaineDOT commissioner and MBTA’s senior policy advisor; Judy East, executive director of the Washington County Council of Governments; Chris Gardner of the Eastport Port Authority; Gary Willey, a former Milbridge selectman and businessman; and Steve Whitcomb of H.O. Bouchard, Inc.
 
In front of an audience of 70, Melrose outlined the impetus behind the Fix It Now! campaign – major transportation financing shortfalls, substantial unmet statewide transportation needs and a lack of political consensus that has made finding a solution difficult.
 
Melrose also spoke specifically about the challenges that Washington County currently faces – with just 2.25 percent of the state’s population living within its county lines, the county is home to 6.1 percent of the state highway system (556 miles of state roads and 101 bridges measuring 20 feet or longer) and a disproportionate number of those miles (almost 162 miles) rated D or F for safety and condition under the MaineDOT classification system. Melrose also noted that 22 percent of the county’s bridges are classified as “structurally deficient” and in need of repair or replacement by the state and federal governments.
 
WCCOG’s East gave the gathered crowd a wish list of transportation projects. That wish list began with a call for improvements to unbuilt sections of Route 1 and other state highways and included roadway design upgrades to separate slow-moving and fast-moving traffic on state roads. East also said the county’s planners are working toward investments in the county’s multimodal and intermodal infrastructure – aviation, bike-ped, transit, freight rail and marine – to spur economic growth, attract tourism and improve mobility.
 
Gardner talked about recent and future improvements to the Port of Eastport, one of Maine’s three deepwater ports and the closest U.S. cargo port to Europe. Those improvements include a new bulk handling cargo facility and reconstruction of the Eastport breakwater that is being funded in part by a $6 million TIGER grant (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery).
 
Retired businessman and former Milbridge selectman Gary Willey spoke about the importance of good transportation for the county’s communities and businesses. The region is home to agriculture- and natural resource-based industries that rely on an interconnected and multimodal transportation system to ship products across the nation and across the ocean.
 
Steve Whitcomb of H.O. Bouchard, Inc. presented the shipper’s view. His company is one of the largest bulk carriers in the state, with total employment of about 175 between H.O. Bouchard and its forestry division, Comstock Woodlands. He said that many in the transportation industry are advocating a fuel tax increase to boost highway funding. Whitcomb firmly believes that fuel taxes, not tolls, are the preferred method of revenue generation, and that better roads will reduce shipper costs and help move the economy.
 
The evening dinner program featured a presentation by WCCOG’s Crystal Hitchings, who has been working on development of the Bold Coast Scenic Byway, Maine’s most recently designated scenic byway. Washington County got a big boost in development of the 125-mile route as a tourist destination when it received a $100,000 MaineDOT grant to develop a byway corridor plan last year. Hitchings spoke about progress on the corridor plan that encompasses more than a dozen coastal communities from Milbridge to Eastport.
 
In the audience were a number of community leaders, all with a stake in the discussion of the county’s transportation network, including Representative Joyce Maker (R-Calais) and her husband Geoffrey Maker; Representative Katherine Cassidy (D-Lubec); Transportation Committee member, Representative Archie Verow (D-Brewer) and his wife Fran Verow; Sunrise Economic Development Council Executive Director Charles Rudelitch and Eastport City Council Chair and Port Authority Board member Mary Repole and her husband Pete Repole.
 
MBTA President Jim Hanley urged everyone present to stay engaged in the fight for better transportation for the region and to call on candidates in the upcoming elections to make transportation a priority.
 
“We are fortunate in this great state of ours that we have access to candidates, incumbents, and their challengers,” said Hanley. “We ask that when you talk with those running for office, whether it is a statewide office or a legislative office, that you tell them how important transportation is to you, to your region, to your family, your business, or whatever area applies to you. . . We know it is hard for transportation to compete with things like education and health care, but let’s face it – transportation is a bread-and-butter issue . . . Help us spread the good word about the need to make transportation more of a priority.”

 


Fix It Now! profile
Washington County

By John Melrose
 
The Bold Coast Scenic Byway extends 125 miles within Washington County and exemplifies one of the East Coast’s last vestiges of peace, tranquility and unspoiled ocean-side beauty. These qualities are a great draw to travelers looking for a place to relax and put their mind at ease. A transportation system equal to these attractions that also supports the region’s natural resource based economy is vital to the county’s prosperity.
 
With an area greater than Delaware and Rhode Island put together, Washington County boasts a population of just over 32,000 with 55 percent of its residents living in only 10 of the 44 towns and two cities in the county. The rural nature of the region is obvious. The county is home to 6.4 percent of all state highways in Maine yet these roads carry only 3.4 percent of all non-interstate vehicle miles traveled statewide.
 
Prospects for growth are not evident in annual traffic counts conducted by MaineDOT. Over the past decade, total county traffic volume declined by approximately 16 percent, the highest decline for any county in Maine.
 
Ironically, to reverse this decline, a first-rate transportation system is needed. Nothing makes this point clearer than the successes realized through the partnership of the Port of Eastport and the Woodland Pulp mill, the county’s largest employer.
 
Highway Conditions
 
Washington County’s priority 1 and 2 highways are Routes 1, 1A, 9 and 190 representing 6.6 percent of all such miles in the state. Yet, 8.3 percent of all “F” rated priority 1 and 2 miles in the state are located in the county. By contrast, “F” rated miles on priority 3 roads are below what would be expected, with just 5.2 percent rated “F,” although 7 percent receive a “D” rating. Priority 3 roads include Route 1 north of Calais and a section connecting Milbridge, Cherryfield and Harrington as well as Routes 6, 182, 193 and 189.
 
The “D” and “F” ratings in Washington County for priority 1, 2 and 3 highways relate entirely to “condition” and “safety” issues with no “service” issues noted for these roads. There are 77.88 miles of priority 1, 2 and 3 highways in the county rated “D” or “F” for condition and 83.72 miles so rated for safety concerns.
 
MaineDOT has made substantial progress in modernizing Routes 1, 9 and 190 over 25 years. Route 190 into Eastport is in excellent condition, and now MaineDOT and the community are turning their attention to upgrading County Road, which connects Route 190 to the port facilities at Estes Head. Route 1 from Perry to Calais is in good condition following numerous reconstruction projects.
 
However, other sections of Route 1 need attention. At least three sections between Jonesboro and Edmunds totaling 10.17 miles are still in substandard condition. Also, a 3.4-mile section on Route 1A between Milbridge and Harrington is in very poor condition and known for ripping off oil pans during the most recent spring thaw. MaineDOT acknowledges each of these projects in its current three-year work plan, but none are scheduled in 2014. With a combined price tag likely to exceed $18 million and the current state of MaineDOT finances, full funding for 2015-16 is a concern.
 
Route 9 throughout the county is largely built to modern day standard, but is at risk. The concern for this – and other improved roads in the county – is the condition of the pavement. Currently these roads face losing the value of the investments made due to insufficient preservation paving. This circumstance unfortunately underscores MaineDOT’s contention that it has a preservation paving budget that is falling 41 percent short of need.
 
Also of relevance to the county is the proposed Route 9 and I-395 connector in Penobscot County that would improve safety, reduce travel time and move heavy truck traffic out of downtown settings.
 
A further concern is the county’s lack of paved shoulders and passing and turning lanes along sections of Routes 1 and 1A and other roads used by freight and recreational users. The Washington County Council of Governments plans to address the shoulder concerns. The soft, sandy shoulder material common in the county easily drifts away from the pavement edge. This creates hazards for motorists and bicyclists and presents environmental concerns associated with run-off. Soft shoulders are commonplace on state highways connecting Routes 1 and 9, as well as on the routes traveling down peninsulas to Machiasport and Jonesport.
 
Half of the highways in Washington County are split equally between the priority 4 and 5 classifications. State goals for these roads focus almost exclusively on pavement treatments so most will only receive periodic maintenance paving or “skinny mix.” Some priority 4 roads might deserve reclassification to a priority 3 to assure a level of repair more consistent with the use of the road. For example, Routes 214 and 191 are classified as priority 4, but truckers moving between the Port of Eastport and the Woodland pulp mill use these roads frequently to reduce their travel times.
 
Bridge conditions
 
There are 101 bridges of 20 feet or greater in the county representing 4.2 percent of all bridges statewide. Of these bridges, a disproportionately high share, 22 percent, are rated structurally deficient by the Federal Highway Administration and a disproportionately low share, 6 percent, are rated functionally obsolete. The most significant bridge need in the county is the Beals Island Bridge that passes over the Moosebec Reach at the Beals-Jonesport town line. This bridge is currently under engineering review by MaineDOT but no schedule is set for construction. This is one of MaineDOT’s identified “extraordinary” bridge needs with an estimated price tag of $20 million.
 
Other modes
 
Washington County has five general aviation air strips located in Deblois, Eastport, Lubec, Machias and Princeton with none offering commercial air service. Rail is limited to Calais and Baileyville entering from Canada. There is abandoned state owned rail still in place on the eastern end of the old Calais Branch that extends from Calais to Charlotte. An excellent all-season, multi-use trail, the Downeast Sunrise Trail, is in place on the balance of the former Calais rail line. The Port of Eastport Marine Terminal is located at Estes Head with a second breakwater pier located in downtown Eastport that is presently scheduled for a major rehabilitation. International ferry service runs from Eastport to Deer Isle, New Brunswick. A multitude of hiking trails are located throughout the county.
 
By far, the most ambitious transportation investment proposed for the county comes from the Eastport Port Authority. The proposal is to re-establish freight rail service to Perry along the eastern end of the Calais Branch line to serve the port. A study of this proposal has already been performed and estimates the cost at $52 million.
 
The accomplishments realized to date by the Port of Eastport serve as a welcome reminder of the importance of having a vision, a can-do attitude and persistence in making transportation investments that grow the economy of this region and the state of Maine. The proposed project, and others like it, deserve serious consideration.

 


2014-17 Strategic Planning Report

Executive Summary • March 25, 2014

 

Introduction
 
The Maine Better Transportation Association (MBTA) leadership met in Freeport on March 25, 2014, to develop a strategic plan. Prior plans were created in 2001 and 2006. MBTA 2013-14 President Tom Gorrill served as chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. Other members were: Paul Beaudette, Gregory Dore, Tim Folster, Jim Hanley, Doug Hermann, Larry Hutchins, Dana Knapp, Paul Koziell, Rodney Lane, Scott Leach, Stephen Sawyer, Pat Sughrue, Jack Sutton, Stuart Welch and Conrad Welzel.
 
To kick off the process, the committee defined a new mission statement and goals that will guide the organization and members in the coming years. The group concluded by establishing strategies, performance measures and tactics for 2014-17. (To download the entire report, visit www.mbtaonline.org).
 
Mission
 
 “To be the leading voice for safe, reliable multi-modal transportation infrastructure to enhance the economy and quality of life.”  
 
Goals
 
Advocate: Support an enhanced transportation infrastructure.
 
Educate: Promote public policy to build and maintain transportation infrastructure that improves the quality of life and stimulates the economy.
 
Collaborate: Connect users, organizations and members to promote better transportation.
 
Governance: Continue to review and improve the organization’s structure and management.

Strategies, Performance Measures & Tactics for 2014-2017
 
In addition to revisiting the organization and establishing four goals for its work over the next four years, the MBTA Strategic Planning Committee agreed to a series of strategies by which the MBTA will achieve those goals. Focusing primarily on the goals of advocacy, education and collaboration, the plan calls for a step-by-step approach:
 
1. Advocate - Be the leader in supporting an enhanced transportation infrastructure.
 
The plan calls for MBTA and its leadership to proactively identify, prioritize and establish the MBTA as a leader on issues and backing up MBTA positions with research, data and objective input. MBTA also will use public outreach, such as the “FixItNow!” campaign, to position the issues.
 
The organization will continue to maintain its good relationships with state and federal political leaders, including Maine’s Congressional delegation, the Governor’s office and Maine House and Senate leadership, as well as with local public works and elected officials and use opportunities including the Legislative Transportation Breakfast and Briefing and other forums to forward the transportation funding debate. MBTA will continue to monitor national, regional and state issues and use that information, as well as new research and data, to develop and disseminate the information to support transportation infrastructure funding.
 
A considerable part of the plan centers around development of the Fix It Now! campaign and calls for commitment of staff and resources to invest in web site and technology to distribute data on transportation infrastructure funding that will engage the public and others.  
 
Via the Fix It Now! campaign and other outreach, MBTA will identify organizations with common interests and solutions to build coalitions. MBTA will collaborate with traditional allies, i.e. Maine State Chamber, AGC Maine, engineers, multimodal advocates and others. The organization also will identify new organizations, i.e. conservation, bicycle/pedestrian, trails, economic development, health care, etc., to help build a strong, diverse base of support.
 
2. Educate – Promote public policy to build and maintain transportation infrastructure  for quality of life and the economy.
 
The plan calls for continued focus on the organization’s public awareness programs to elevate understanding of transportation issues and increase two-way communications to enhance understanding and input. The strategies identified include the Fix It Now! campaign, taking advantage of speaking opportunities, continuing to develop the organization’s social media presence and publication of Maine Trails magazine and the MBTA directory in both print and digital formats.
 
The plan also calls for MBTA to invest in advertising and possibly an app to market the Fix It Now! research findings and build community support.
 
3. Collaborate – Connect with users, organizations and members to promote better transportation.
 
A key element of the 2014-17 strategic plan is the emphasis on collaboration – both within and outside the organization. The plan calls for MBTA to focus on expanding its membership base to include transportation end users and to broaden outreach by targeting new markets that have an interest in improving Maine’s transportation network (i.e., business, tourism, health care, real estate, etc.). The plan identifies the organization’s event calendar as an important tool for reaching out to existing, new and potential members, making sure events are “fresh and modified to meet the changing needs of attendees.” In addition to continuing the MBTA tradition of holding regional meetings at locations throughout the state and collaborating with MaineDOT and the Maine Section ASCE on the Maine Transportation Conference, the plan also calls for MBTA to promote involvement of young professionals through outreach and opportunities, including scholarships, dues discounts, participation in MBTA committees and leadership and creation of a “Young Professionals Better Transportation Council.”
 
4. Governance - Continue to review and improve the organization’s structure and management.
 
The final goal addressed by the strategic plan is governance of the organization. The plan calls for continued emphasis on sustaining the “effectiveness of the board as established by the bylaws” and financial stewardship of MBTA’s resources.
 
MBTA will work to maintain “sufficient staffing and consultants to carry out the mission and strategic goals.” Finally, the plan calls for the MBTA leadership to review progress on the strategic plan annually and expand awareness of the plan among the membership.

 


Member News: Construction season
Scenes from construction projects underway in Maine

Summer in Maine means construction crews are busy on transportation projects. Here’s a look at some of the major projects underway across the state.
 
Fort Kent International Border Crossing
 
Soderberg Construction began work on the approach to the new international bridge in Fort Kent in mid-June and has been working under challenging conditions. The project is part of a multi-contract reconstruction of the border crossing that includes a new bridge, new approaches on both the U.S. and Canadian sides and demolition of the old bridge.
 
Carl Soderberg reports that the work is going well, despite strict deadlines leading up to the much-anticipated World Acadian Congress, August 8 through 24. MaineDOT and its Canadian counterpart, the New Brunswick Department of Transportation, opened the bridge in time for an estimated 60,000 visitors expected to attend events on both sides of the border.
 
The $4.3 million contract includes construction of the new road leading to the new crossing, raising of a section of Main Street to match the higher profile of the new bridge, construction of new sidewalks, drainage and lighting, relocation of the border station and construction of a customs booth and canopy. Overall, Soderberg estimates that about 100 people, including subcontractors, will be employed by the project’s end. While Soderberg crews will come in to wrap up most of the work on the project this fall after the congress is over, the project will not be completed until next spring when demolition of the old bridge (by Reed & Reed) is finished.
 
Crews began work on this $6.6 million pavement rehabilitation and bridge repair project in late March of this year, and expect to continue through mid-September. According to Alex Phelps of Pike Industries, the primary contractor on the job, much of the paving work, which includes milling of the highway to a two-inch depth, shimming and laying down a polymer modified wear surface on three northbound and three southbound lanes, is being done at night due to the high traffic volumes on this section of the highway.
 
Pike has subcontracted with Scott Construction for repairs to two bridges in the 10-mile section – the Kennebunk River Bridge at Mile 27 and the Mousam River Bridge at Mile 25 – and Pratt & Sons to perform drainage and clear zone improvements on the project. Phelps said that Pike expects to wrap up paving and pavement marking work on the project before Labor Day weekend and to complete cleanup during the early weeks of September.
 
Berwick Bridge, Berwick – Somersworth
 
This bridge, which carries nearly 16,000 vehicles a day, is undergoing a major rehabilitation that includes bridge superstructure replacement, new steel girders, a new concrete deck, new railings and lighting upgrades, as well as a new rail crossing and rehabilitation of both east and west abutments. The four-lane bridge spans 110 feet across the Salmon Falls River and connects the historic downtowns of Somersworth, New Hampshire and South Berwick, Maine, and was last rehabilitated in 1963. MaineDOT scheduled a few short duration full traffic closures on the bridge: two weekend closures to construct a temporary rail crossing and, later, the permanent concrete crossing, as well as evening closures when crews erected new steel girders. The rest of the time, traffic on the bridge has been limited to one lane in each direction that has shifted as crews have constructed the bridge in phases.
 
Kim Suhr of Wyman & Simpson, the primary contractor on the $2.3 million project, said work began in April of this year and the project is scheduled to be “substantially complete” this fall. The bridge is being funded jointly by MaineDOT and NHDOT in cooperation with the towns of Berwick, Maine and Somersworth, New Hampshire.
 
Maine Turnpike Paving, Mile 102.6 to Mile 109.1
 
This Maine Turnpike paving project got underway when Lane Construction Corporation placed construction signage and traffic control devices early in May. The project, that stretches just under seven miles on four lanes of I-95, includes drainage, pavement markings and guardrail modifications. Much of the work is being done during non-peak hours, as this section of the Maine Turnpike can experience considerable traffic during both summer tourism season and regular commuter hours.
 
Gregory Schaube of The Lane Construction Corporation, the primary contractor on the project, estimates that as many as 60 will work on the job (paving crews, traffic control, guardrail crews and others) by the time the project wraps up this fall. Total budget for the paving project is $4.19 million.
 
Lewiston Interchange, Maine Turnpike
 
As a result of a multi-year planning effort in the Lewiston-Auburn region, the Maine Turnpike Authority, in coordination with the city of Lewiston and the Maine Department of Transportation, established a plan to redesign the Exit 80 interchange in Lewiston, Maine.  The new interchange has been designed as a single point urban interchange (SPUI), the first to be constructed in Maine. The SPUI design was selected to reduce impacts on adjacent property owners and natural resources, to improve current traffic operations and to accommodate future growth in the region. 
 
Last fall, R.J. Grondin & Sons began work on the first phase of the new interchange: construction of a new northbound on-ramp and reconstruction of the other three ramps. The estimated cost of the first phase is $5.1 million. That work is expected to be complete in the fall of 2104, and Phase II, construction of the mainline and bridges, is scheduled to begin shortly thereafter. The new southbound bridge will be constructed next and is expected to be complete in 2015.  Construction of the new northbound bridge will follow in 2016. During the bridge project, the northbound ramps and southbound ramps will temporarily operate as two different intersections, similar to how they have worked for past 20 years. The final phase of the project, that builds the new single-point ramps and ties them into one new traffic signal on Alfred Plourde Parkway, is scheduled to begin construction in 2016.
 
Route 1 Reconstruction, Warren
 
Work began in late June on reconstruction of a 1.52-mile section of Route 1 in Warren from south of the Sandy Shore Road past the intersection with Route 97. Joel Wardwell, project manager for the Lane Construction Corporation, the primary contractor on the $4.63 million reconstruction project, reports that by the end of next summer, crews will have removed 5,600 cubic yards of ledge and 17,900 square yards of the old concrete road, excavated 35,000 cubic yards, installed 7,100 linear feet of new drainage and rebuilt the road with 35,000 cubic yards of aggregate and 13,000 tons of pavement. The new road will feature new, eight-foot shoulders.
 
One challenge has been managing traffic flow on the popular section of highway. MaineDOT is restricting travel to just one alternating lane with maximum 1,000-foot closures during July and August.
 
Wardwell said crews will suspend work on the project late fall and resume construction again next spring with an anticipated completion in August 2015.
 
Oakdale Bridge, Route 202, Auburn
 
The Oakdale Bridge, northbound on Route 202, spans the Little Androscoggin River in Auburn. This $2.3 million bridge construction project began on June 1 when MaineDOT shut down the northbound two lanes of the existing bridge and rerouted traffic to the southbound bridge via Chasse and Philomar streets in Auburn.
 
The contract includes removing the existing three-span bridge and replacing it with a 200-foot-wide, two-span structure. Wyman & Simpson is the primary contractor on the project, scheduled to be complete by mid-November of this year.

 


MaineDOT View

Complete Streets

By Bruce Van Note, MaineDOT Deputy Commissioner
 
At MaineDOT, we continuously strive to be customer focused – to understand and anticipate their needs, listen to their concerns, and respond appropriately. Our mission – “to responsibly provide our customers the safest and most reliable transportation system possible – given available resources” – is at the core of how we function as an organization. And we know our customers are not always found on four wheels.
 
MaineDOT has a long history of providing for the needs of all modes of travel in the planning, programming, design, rehabilitation, maintenance and construction of the state’s transportation system. In partnership with municipalities, metropolitan planning organizations, regional planning organizations, the Federal Highway Administration and other federal agencies, MaineDOT has continuously worked to provide a safe, comprehensive transportation system that balances the needs of all users. Designing for all users of our system – our customers – is nothing new or revolutionary for our engineers. We have compiled our best practices into one comprehensive Complete Streets policy, adopted earlier this year. The policy is simply a more transparent way of communicating what we’ve always done.
 
Complete Streets policies have a foundation in federal law, guidance and best practices and have been signed into law or policy in states and communities throughout the nation. The intent of this policy is to help ensure that all those who use Maine’s transportation system, including bicyclists, pedestrians, people of all ages and abilities, transit users and motor vehicle users, have safe and efficient access.
 
Two years ago, legislation was introduced to require us to establish a task force to develop Complete Streets design guidelines to be applied whenever state or federal funds are used to build or reconstruct a road or bridge. The goal was to develop a statewide policy designed to enhance the delivery of cost-effective, sustainable and customer-focused transportation services that will meet the current and future needs of the state. The Maine Legislature’s Transportation Committee heard hours of testimony as to the benefits, with many individuals testifying that we, as a department, already did several of the things the policy sought to implement. Our position on the bill, L.D. 403, was neither one of support nor opposition.
 
We stated that MaineDOT has always been fully supportive of creating a safe transportation system for all users, including pedestrians and bicyclists. Our current practices and policies, although not labeled Complete Streets, are designed to ensure that all of our projects include pedestrian and bicycle accommodations in the planning and implementation of federal and state funded construction projects where warranted.
 
Committee members, in their wisdom, deemed that legislation wasn’t necessary. Rather, they asked MaineDOT to work with interested parties to review our existing policies and compile them into one, easily accessible resource.
 
To that end, MaineDOT and its partners reviewed applicable state laws and policies (consistent with the goals of the Maine Sensible Transportation Policy Act and associated Rules (23 M.R.S. § 73 et al), federal laws and policies related to bicycle transportation and pedestrian walkways (23 US Code § 217 (g)), as well as federal laws and policies related to civil rights and other non-discrimination requirements, that either recommend or require that transportation agencies consider bicycle and pedestrian access needs as part of all transportation improvement plans and projects. The end result, the Complete Streets policy, can be found here: www.maine.gov/mdot/completestreets.
 
This is not a paradigm shift for MaineDOT. Although more comprehensive than before, the actual policy is not new. In our continuing effort to provide quality service to our customers, our Complete Streets policy further takes their needs into account. It serves not only as a guiding policy, but as a reminder that our system exists for all users.

 

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