By Clarke Canfield
The Maine section of the American Society of Civil Engineers is giving the state’s bridges, roads and schools a low grade in a report card assessing the state’s infrastructure.
In a 61-page report released Wednesday, the group gave the state a cumulative grade of C- in its assessment of 14 infrastructure areas deemed to be essential to the state’s economic prosperity and quality of life.
The highest grade, a B-, was given to the state’s airports and state parks. Maine’s roads received the lowest grade, a D.
In other areas, the report gave a D+ to bridges, dams, municipal wastewater treatment plants and the state’s contaminated site remediation program; a C- to schools and ports and waterways; a C to railroads, municipal drinking water systems and solid waste facilities; and a C+ to energy generation and transmission systems.
The report provides a framework to better understand the scope of problems facing the state’s infrastructure and to help it establish priorities, said Erik Wiberg, president of the Maine section of the society.
“The infrastructure is critical to the quality of life we enjoy in Maine,” Wiberg said. “It’s important for our public health, important for the environment and important for our economic vitality.”
The national society in years past has issued report cards on the nation’s infrastructure and state chapters have issued report cards for their individual states, but this was the first time a report card had been issued for Maine.
The report provides an overview of each infrastructure category while analyzing the existing conditions and the current and projected levels of funding. Overall, the projected funding gap for infrastructure maintenance and improvement in Maine is estimated to be in the billions of dollars over the next decade.
The report was distributed to the governor’s office and Maine’s congressional delegation, Wiberg said.
In response, Gov. John Baldacci asked state departments and agencies to review the report and get back to him, said spokesman David Farmer.
“It’s no secret we need to invest in the infrastructure,” Farmer said.
The report card comes out just days after President-elect Barack Obama unveiled his economic stimulus plan that includes spending on infrastructure projects to help boost employment and the weak U.S. economy.
Maine Deputy Transportation Commissioner Greg Nadeau said the infrastructure is aging and that states need financial help from Washington. Maine has a projected $3.2 billion shortfall in transportation funding over the next 10 years to make sure the system is adequately maintained and meets the needs of the economy, he said.
“I think the ASCE report card underscores the need for the federal government to do that,” he said.