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Cover Story: Thanks to 5 who have paved the way

MBTA honors transportation leaders at 2014 Transportation Achievement Awards Luncheon

At the head table, the awards stood ready. They were made of Maine bluestone. “The plaques we will be presenting to our honorees today were crafted from stone taken from one of our quarries,” said MBTA President Jim Hanley of Pike Industries during the welcoming remarks at the MBTA’s 2014 Transportation Achevement Awards Luncheon October 17 at the Augusta Civic Center.
 
“They symbolize the strength of character, and deep, lasting commitment of the recipients, as well as [Maine’s] transportation system itself,” said Hanley. “This is the same rock that was used in resurfacing Maine highways earlier this year.” With that symbolism-laden introduction, the festivities were underway and MBTA members, family and friends paid personal tributes to five individuals who have had a lasting effect on Maine transportation.
 
Each of the presenters – MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt, former MBTA Presidents Tom Martin, Steve Sawyer and Tom Gorrill, Everett Barnard, former MaineDOT bridge engineer and a Transportation Achievement Award-winner himself (2003) and Owens McCullough – offered personal insights about the honorees and their deep commitment to their communities, their professions and to the field of transportation.
 
Barnard, who presented the Volunteer Award to Jack Sutton of the Maine Rail Group, spoke about getting to know Sutton on trips to restore vintage rail cars and his “passion for volunteerism.” “Driving around with Jack can be an experience,” recounted Barnard, “because you never know when he is going to take a quick right turn to inspect track conditions, or turn left to check out freight movements.”
 
Martin presented the Advocate Award to his longtime friend, former MBTA President and Skowhegan Highway Commissioner Greg Dore. He spoke about Dore’s longstanding commitment to Skowhegan and to the public works profession. He also sprinkled his heartfelt presentation with personal reminiscences. “It is very clear why Greg was the choice for this award: he lives and breathes his profession. And it’s a good thing because he can’t shoot worth a lick. Greg is one of the most invested individuals in his community and has the most passion for transportation that I have ever seen,” said Martin.
 
Sawyer and McCullough co-presented the Public Service Award for Paul Bradbury of the Portland Jetport, emphasizing his professionalism and skills as a negotiator. Sawyer remembered the first time he met Bradbury during design of the Portland Transportation Center: “Paul was early in his career, roughly 30 at the time, and as I recall, had no gray hair. I was impressed with his energy, enthusiasm, professionalism, and responsiveness. His ego was never evident and he just wanted to be a contributing member of the project team.”
 
Gorrill presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to former MaineDOT Commissioner and MBTA policy advisor John Melrose of Eaton Peabody Consulting. He spoke about Melrose’s humility and his prodigious and creative approach to transportation that has helped achieve many landmark gains over his career in the public, non-profit and private sectors.
 
“As the name of his former business, Maine Tomorrow shows, John has always believed it is important to have ideas and a vision for moving us ahead and solving our problems,” said Gorrill. “John is a tireless advocate for new ideas and is vigilant in his concern for the state transportation system, its continued steady decline in funding for many years, and the impact that this decline will have on the economic vitality of the state of Maine.”
 
MaineDOT Commissioner Bernhardt, along with MBTA President Hanley, presented the final award of the day, the Champion Award, to U.S. Senator Susan Collins. The commisssioner spoke about Collins’ absolute dedication to her job representing the people of Maine, and her work in the Senate to secure funding for transportation in rural areas of the country – and championing critical projects in Maine. She fought long and hard to enact one of the most important transportation policy changes for our state in recent years: the increase of truck weights on Maine and Vermont’s interstate highways. The legislation passed, and Maine’s local roads are much safer as a result, and businesses have benefited from reduced fuel costs and vehicle wear-and-tear, as well.
 
“As the Ranking Member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Collins has a powerful voice in how federal transportation funding is allocated,” said Bernhardt. “She has worked tirelessly to secure federal funding for critical transportation projects in Maine –from the replacement of the Memorial and Sarah Mildred Long bridges connecting Kittery and Portsmouth—to the state purchase of a northern Maine rail line that was in danger of abandonment—to essential investments in infrastructure at Maine’s three deep water ports in Eastport, Searsport and Portland—just to name a few.”
 
MBTA President Hanley offered the day’s closing thought – the importance of showing our gratitude for people who devote their professional and personal time to “move Maine forward.”
 
“It has been a pleasure to honor all of you today, as you are all incredibly deserving,” said Hanley. “We often don’t take the time to thank people as much as we should, so on behalf of our board of directors, thank you to each and every one of you.”
 
Volunteer Award: Jack Sutton, Maine Rail Group
 
Jack sutton’s enthusiasm for transportation – and rail in particular – is infectious. Maybe it is because the long-time MBTA board member and former president of the Maine Rail Group is absolutely confident that good transportation is essential to our state’s future. It is that confidence that has made him a fearless and effective volunteer for transportation, whether he is recruiting a new MBTA member or delivering effective testimony at a town meeting or a legislative hearing.
 
Jack and his wife Kati moved to Belgrade, Maine from Hawthorne, New Jersey in the early 1960s when Jack took a job with Keyes Fibre Company. Kati and he quickly put down roots in Maine, raising their daughter Nancy and son Richard there, and pursuing many public service opportunities in their adopted town. He retired from Keyes Fibre as vice president and director of engineering, and then began a second career as a volunteer. Jack became involved in the Maine Rail Group in 1992, an independent all-volunteer group that promotes awareness of railroads’ contributions to Maine’s economy and their important role in moving passengers and freight. He quickly became an effective spokesperson and grassroots organizer for the group and served as its president from 2000 to 2011.
 
Jack was able to masterfully balance the organization’s diverse roles – as a strong voice for Maine’s passenger and freight rail industry – and as an entity involved in the preservation of rail infrastructure and equipment. For years, he recruited friends and business associates to help restore two historic rail coaches on the weekend (both have since been put back into service). He also spearheaded the biennial publication of the New England Railway Map, an accurate and comprehensive resource that catalogs the region’s active and dormant rail lines and other points of interest. As a member of MBTA’s board of directors, Jack has maintained an impressive attendance record, rarely missing a meeting in 12 years.
 
He is often joined by his wife Kati on trips to the Washington and Aroostook county meetings and at the annual MBTA convention. Jack also has been a powerful force on the MBTA’s Membership Committee, serving as chair for two terms and effectively broadening the MBTA’s influence by reaching out to businesses outside of the construction and design community. Jack’s quiet persistence and powers of persuasion are formidable, and he once even convinced the owner of a favorite Chinese restaurant to join.
 
Jack earned a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his master’s degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology. He has a long association with the town of Belgrade, serving in many elected and volunteer positions, including chair of the selectman’s board. He is a past chair and a current trustee for the Kennebec Valley Community College Foundation, and helped found the Belgrade Regional Health Center.
 
Advocate AWARD: Greg Dore, Town of Skowhegan
 
Greg Dore has never been afraid of taking on a challenge. As the elected highway commissioner for the town of Skowhegan, he and his staff have tackled jobs big and small. One of the most extensive was the reconstruction of the famous Swinging Bridge, a footbridge originally built in 1883 to connect workers living in the town to jobs at the mills on Skowhegan Island. That ambitious historic reconstruction won the Skowhegan Highway Department a 2007 APWA Public Works Excellence Award, and the bridge today remains the centerpiece of a robust revival of Skowhegan’s historic downtown.
 
Dore, an engineer by training, was first elected to his post in 1992, and today leads a department of 10 with a highway maintenance budget of more than $1.25 million. In Skowhegan, he has introduced many innovations including: instituting the town’s annual leaf pickup and composting program; helping students raise funds and build the Skowhegan Skateboard Park; constructing the Little League Complex at the Skowhegan Recreation Center; securing funding for the Half Moon Pedestrian Bridge; securing a jobs bond grant that funded the new sewer line on Water Street; instituting Yellow Fish Road, a water safety education program; rebuilding and relocating the Main Street and North Avenue fountains; constructing the Veteran’s Memorial Park and Ride; and establishing the DeBe Trail Riverwalk along the Kennebec River.
 
Greg is also director of Run of River LLC, an organization established to build and operate a whitewater park on the Kennebec River through the center of town. The nature-based theme park is expected to draw tourists to the town, including kayakers, rafters and other adventure enthusiasts.
 
As a long-time MBTA board member and former MBTA president (2008-2009), and as a member and past president of the Maine Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA), Dore has been a strong advocate for transportation. He is able to speak eloquently and accurately in the debate for greater investment in Maine’s transportation infrastructure. His experience on the front lines, managing town resources and balancing tight budgets to keep Skowhegan’s roads safe, is only matched by his even-handed and down-to-earth style. Greg has helped broaden MBTA’s reach among municipal government leaders in Maine. At the Maine Chapter APWA, he has helped organize the Highway Congress equipment show.
 
Greg was born and raised in Skowhegan and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after high school, before attending Northern Maine Technical College, and the University of Arizona. He and his wife Paula, live in East Madison. They have five sons and eight grandchildren. In 2012, he and Paula became silent partners in the landmark Old Mill Pub, located in a former 1909 grain mill in the heart of Skowhegan, and which is operated by four of their sons.  
 
Public Service AWARD: Paul Bradbury, Portland International Jetport
 
Paul Bradbury was a newly minted engineer, fresh out of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, when he accepted his first professional job as engineering and facilities manager for the Portland International Jetport in 1992. That job, which he held for 15 years overseeing the inner workings of Maine’s largest commercial airport, proved an excellent training ground for his next career move: directorship of the airport in 2008.
 
Under Paul’s watch, the Jetport has seen enormous changes in its physical plant and steady passenger traffic and revenues at a time when many regional airports have experienced slow or negative growth. Today, thanks to Paul and his team, the Jetport is a vibrant gateway where nearly 2 million visitors from around the world experience their first taste of Maine hospitality. A 2012 economic impact report estimated that the airport is responsible for 1,100 direct and indirect jobs and for generating $860 million in annual economic activity in the Greater Portland region and Maine.
 
Paul’s particular gift is an uncanny ability to manage complex and detail-driven projects while still keeping his eye on the big picture. At the Jetport, that skill has resulted in the successful completion of the new $75 million, LEED Gold certified 145,000-square-foot passenger terminal, the first of only two terminal expansion projects in the country to be so certified.
 
In fact, the terminal was only the most visible part of a five-year capital improvement project led by Paul, totaling $163 million and which includes a new parking garage, terminal apron, rehabilitation of the north/south runway and new runway safety areas. The expansion also enabled the Jetport to construct a new geothermal heating and cooling system and develop an innovative de-icing capture system that reduces the environmental impact of the airport’s operations during winter weather.
 
The new, visually welcoming terminal offers a selection of passenger and airline amenities that have contributed to the Jetport’s reputation as an easy alternative to other, larger regional airports. As a result, the Jetport has been able to attract and retain a greater selection of carriers offering lower ticket prices. The improvements also support more business and tourism development in the state.
 
Paul is also an excellent negotiator, a skill put to the test during the planning and construction of the Portland Transportation Center, home to the Amtrak Downeaster and Concord Coach Lines. He successfully represented the city of Portland in many of the complex negotiations between the city, state, Concord Coach Lines, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, and the design/build team during the project.
 
Paul grew up in Phippsburg, Maine. He and his wife Susan live in Scarborough with their two boys. When he’s not running the Jetport, Paul often can be found in the outdoors, snowmobiling, running and competing in triathlons, including the Ironman at Lake Placid, New York.
 
Lifetime Achievement Award: John Melrose, Eaton Peabody Consulting
 
Most recently John Melrose has been a senior consultant with Eaton Peabody Consulting Group, Inc., but Maine Better Transportation Association members know him for his long and dedicated service as the organization’s senior policy advisor, a position he has held on and off for three decades.
 
John has served the state of Maine for more than 40 years, first with the Maine Municipal Association where he designed, along with MaineDOT Commissioner George Campbell, today’s highway fund revenue sharing program for municipalities. He later joined Roger Mallar at Maine Tomorrow, eventually becoming sole owner. In 1995, Governor Angus King recognized John’s passion for Maine and the critical role infrastructure plays in development of the state’s economy, and appointed him as Commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation, where he served until 2002.
 
As commissioner, John and his team championed the creation of the Transit Bonus Program, the Industrial Rail Access Program, the Small Harbor Improvement Program and Explore Maine. Also during the King Administration, the Maine State Ferry was modernized, landmark trail projects were completed, and new cargo port facilities were launched in Portland, Eastport and Searsport, including the state’s purchase of Sears Island. Highway reconstruction was expanded during his tenure, and the backlog of extraordinary bridge needs was reduced by half.
 
As MBTA’s senior policy advisor, John has worked closely with the Maine Legislature’s Transportation Committee to craft funding legislation and consult on bond proposals for road, rail, port, transit and aviation investment. On behalf of MBTA, he worked with MaineDOT and a stellar Transportation Committee to create TransCap bonds, an important new financing tool for transportation investment. Most recently, John has provided research and helped build local coalitions for the MBTA’s statewide Fix It Now! campaign.
 
John’s experience in community planning and development extends to more than 50 Maine communities, as well as a dozen state agencies. As a private consultant to the Augusta Board of Trade, his initial work led to the makeover of Exit 113 on I-95 to accommodate the new MaineGeneral Medical Center. He is currently leading a major development effort by Trafton Realty that requires a new I-95 interchange in Waterville at Trafton Road.
 
John received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Maine. He is a member of the Town of Vassalboro Budget Committee and a steward of the Kennebec Land Trust. He is also a member of the Francis Crowe Society, and a past member and board president of the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program. In 2010, he received a President’s Award from the Kennebec Valley Chamber.
 
John lives in Vassalboro with his wife, Molly. John and Molly raised three children and have two grandchildren. 
 
Champion Award: U.S. Senator Susan Collins
 
Since first being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, Susan Collins has been a formidable advocate for Maine. Recognized as one of Congress’s hardest working members and one of the most powerful women in Washington, she is known for her ability to work with her fellow members of Congress, regardless of their political affiliations, in order to affect positive change. Her work in transportation is why she received the Champion Award.
 
Here are just a few of her accomplishments in this area:
 
Senator Collins scored a major legislative victory when Congress passed legislation increasing interstate truck weights in 2011. She fought hard for this legislation over many years, listening to her constituents’ concerns about safety and the higher transportation and road maintenance costs caused when Maine had to keep big trucks off the interstate. She used the information she gleaned to make a compelling case, convincing her colleagues in both the House and Senate to support higher truck weights on federal highways in Maine and Vermont. By convincing her colleagues to support the higher weights, she accomplished something that has eluded Maine policymakers for 30 years. As a result, Maine’s streets are safer, our air is cleaner, and our businesses are more competitive.
 
Senator Collins also has worked tirelessly to secure federal funding for critical transportation projects in Maine including: replacement of the Memorial and Sarah Mildred Long bridges connecting Kittery and Portsmouth, New Hampshire; state purchase of a northern Maine rail line that was in danger of abandonment; increased capital investments for the Amtrak Downeaster; essential infrastructure investments at Maine’s three deep water ports in Eastport, Searsport and Portland; and replacement of the Richmond-Dresden Bridge, a 1930s-era steel truss bridge that had long ago outlived its anticipated lifespan. 
 
Senator Collins also has championed important U.S. Department of Transportation programs aimed at helping small, rural communities to maintain access to air service throughout Maine, from Presque Isle to Bar Harbor, Rockland to Augusta. Her seat on the Appropriations Committee also has given her a powerful voice in how federal transportation funding is allocated.
 
Her thoughtful approach to infrastructure investment was a hallmark of the 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill, which she co-authored last year. Perhaps most impressive is how Senator Collins never gives up or takes her position for granted. She has never missed a roll call vote in 18 years in the Senate.
 
The senior senator from Maine was born and raised in Caribou, where her family runs a fifth-generation lumber business, founded by her ancestors in 1844. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of St. Lawrence University. She is married to Thomas A. Daffron and resides in Bangor.

 

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