Transportation bond gives Maine a needed boost

By Ken Theriault and Archie Verow, Special to the BDN
Posted Oct. 29, 2013, at 6:28 a.m.

With more than 20,000 miles of road, Maine is a big state. We depend on a safe and strong transportation network for families to get to school, workers to get to their jobs and for businesses to transport goods.

On Nov. 5, Maine voters will be asked five questions on the state referendum ballot. Question 3 asks whether voters favor a $100 million bond issue for reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for equipment and facilities related to other modes of transportation. This bond would be matched with about $154 million from federal and other funds.

If approved, this funding will improve the quality of Maine’s roads and bridges, create jobs and boost our economy.

Most of the bond, $76 million, would go toward improvements in our highways and bridges; $24 million would go toward investments in Maine’s ports, passenger and freight rail and planes; and $5 million would help fund the Maine Department of Transportation’s Municipal Partnership Program, which responds to local transportation needs.

We need this investment to keep our transportation system together.

Maine has more highway miles than any other state in New England, but we have the lowest level of funding per mile. According to the American Society of civil Engineers, 33 percent of our roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and one third of our bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

We all have experienced wear and tear on our vehicles from driving into potholes or unmaintained frost heaves. Anyone could tell you how costly repairs are.

The average driver in our state spends nearly $300 per year on vehicle repairs due to poor road conditions, according to the Maine Better Transportation Association. This costs Mainers $301 million annually. In 2011, there were 136 traffic fatalities in our state. Road conditions are a major factor in about one third of these accidents.

The condition of our roads is a big issue, and we on the Legislature’s Transportation Committee take this seriously.

We also can’t afford to lose out on employing many hard-working Mainers. In our state, unemployment among construction workers is 26 percent. If this bond is approved, 2,800 people can put on their tool belts and get back to work.

The investment would not only support jobs in the construction industry, but it will have a ripple effect on our state’s economy. Each year, 81 percent of Maine’s $31 billion worth of exports is transported by trucks using the state’s highways. With better road conditions, businesses will have a greater capacity to produce and ship goods and hire more workers.

We still haven’t totally recovered from the recession, and the funding would put us on the right track.

The transportation bond is good for Mainers from Madawaska to Kittery. Infrastructure is a major building block to a strong economy and maintaining our transportation network is necessary for our safety, jobs and economic success.

Rep. Ken Theriault, D-Madawaska, is serving his fourth term in the Legislature and serves as House chair of the Transportation Committee. Rep. Archie Verow, D-Brewer, is serving his first term in the Legislature and also serves on the Transportation Committee.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/10/29/opinion/transportation-bond-gives-maine-a-needed-boost/ printed on October 1, 2014