Do you favor an $85,000,000 bond issue for construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities and equipment related to ports, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit and bicycle and pedestrian trails, to be used to match an estimated $121,500,000 in federal and other funds?
In 2012, Maine’s Legislature revamped the goals set out in state law for the quality of the more than 23,000 miles of roads that carry Maine residents and visitors and the goods they depend on from Point A to Point B.
The goals weren’t the most ambitious. In fact, they represented a downgrade from the road quality goals previously in state law. But they were a realistic set of expectations, given available funds, to bring Maine’s most critical roads up to acceptable service levels within the next decade.
Ever since, the Maine Department of Transportation has let those goals guide its work. The agency determines road work priorities laid out in its rolling three-year work plans based on those goals in state law. Perhaps most importantly, the department focuses its available resources on Maine’s most critical roads, where major investments can yield the maximum return.
Question 3 on the Nov. 3 ballot would allow the state to borrow the resources the Maine Department of Transportation needs to continue bringing the state’s most important roads up to snuff. The ballot question proposes an $85 million bond, $68 million of which would fund road work. The remaining $17 million would fund work on other important infrastructure: ports and harbors, public transit, airports, railroads, and pedestrian and bicycle paths.
We urge a “yes” vote.
State borrowing represents one critical element of a complicated revenue picture for the Maine Department of Transportation. The agency counts on a particular level of borrowing to allow it to follow through with the rehabilitation and construction projects it has planned across the state.
State borrowing accounted for 13 percent of the more than $1 billion the agency used in the last two state fiscal years. The state Highway Fund, which brings in revenue through the gasoline tax, is the single largest revenue source for road work. But the fund has brought in less revenue every year since 2012, after lawmakers stopped indexing it to inflation.
The roads slated for investment are the ones most consequential to the greatest numbers of people: They represent 19 percent of Maine’s road mileage but 70 percent of vehicle miles traveled each year. They are the interstate highways, the major roadways that allow traffic and commercial goods to flow from region to region, and the aging bridges that cross over them.
Policymakers have much work to do to patch up the transportation funding situation in this state and in this country. Maine voters should approve this bond proposal so essential infrastructure improvements can happen in the interim.