Question 4: Do you favor a $51,500,000 bond issue for improvements to highways and bridges, local roads, airports and port facilities, as well as for funds for rail access, transit buses and the LifeFlight Foundation, which will make the state eligible for at least $105,600,000 in federal and other matching funds?
Saying yes to Question 4 will help not just improve infrastructure linking Maine businesses but better connect Maine to the global marketplace.
The majority of the funds — $41 million — would go toward repairing roads and bridges deemed vital to business interests and public safety and would make the state eligible for $72 million in matching federal funds.
The demand for repair is great. Maine has more than 4,000 miles of existing highways in need of reconstruction, according to “ Connecting Maine,” the state’s long-term transportation plan. About 40 percent of the bridges maintained by the Maine Department of Transportation are more than 50 years old, meaning they are nearing the end of their useful lives. The Maine Economic Growth Council’s annual report this year assigned a red flag to transportation infrastructure.
Approval of Question 4 also would provide $3 million for dredging the commercial channel at Searsport, off Mack Point, to allow ships to carry greater capacity to the docks and reduce the number of scheduling delays caused by ships having to wait until high tide to enter the port.
Another $2 million, matched by private funding, would go toward installing handling equipment at the port to improve its ability to load and unload bulk products. For instance, Cate Street Capital’s Millinocket mill would be better able to send wood pellets to a growing green-energy market in Europe. Maine is particularly well poised to expand its forestry-related exports, as its spruce and fir harvests are expected to increase 23 percent over the next 20 years, according to engineering and forestry consultants at James W. Sewall Co.
Approval of Question 4 also would provide $1.5 million for warehouse facilities at the port of Eastport; $300,000 for weather observation stations and helipads for the LifeFlight Foundation; $1.5 million for industrial rail work; $1.2 million for aviation facilities; and $1 million for transit buses.
A basic part of sustaining commerce involves repairing Maine’s roads and bridges and making it cheaper and easier for importers and exporters to move their goods. The bond, which benefits industries and people across the state, should be approved Nov. 6.