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Jess Maurer is the executive director of the Maine Council on Aging and a Maine Climate Councilor. Steve Golieb is the chair of the Millinocket Town Council and a Maine Climate Councilor.
Maine and the nation are at a critical inflection point when it comes to climate action and clean transportation. We can no longer afford to kick the can down the road when it comes to building a modern transportation system to strengthen economic competitiveness, help connect our rural towns and urban centers, and reduce harmful air pollution.
Here in Maine, where transportation accounts for 54 percent of climate pollution, we have a lot at stake in achieving a transportation future that uses less fossil fuel and produces less pollution, with improved and affordable options for Maine people to conduct their lives and get around.
The Age Friendly Maine report released in February identified transportation as one of seven “domains of livability,” saying that “increasing the availability of safe and affordable transportation options and alternatives will reduce social isolation, support independent living, and allow Mainers to age in their communities.” Maine’s 2025 Strategic Transit Plan shows that 72 percent of Maine’s elderly population lives in communities without access to a fixed or flexed transit route. And a survey of residents in Aroostook County identified lack of access to transportation and public transit as the top concern.
A well-designed plan for both cleaner transportation and clean power can greatly improve public health, stimulate local economies, reduce energy bills for Mainers and expand accessibility for people, including for those who can’t afford car ownership.
We are encouraged by the recent news of a bipartisan framework for infrastructure investment that could provide substantial benefits to Maine, yet we know there is much more that needs to be done to ensure states like Maine have the resources to tackle the many challenges our communities face, including transportation and climate change.
Congress must come together to seize this opportunity with an additional federal investment plan that includes greater support for a newer, cleaner transportation system. That is one of the reasons why we have joined with more than 70 other Maine organizations across many sectors calling on Congress to match the level of investment with the needs we see in the communities we serve. Investing in these sectors will reduce the pollution that causes climate change and make our air safer to breathe for those most vulnerable. It will also help improve the lives of Maine people by increasing affordability and accessibility for older residents and low-income families.
We must complement these efforts with better broadband to encourage working from home, expanded public transit networks, safer walking and biking paths and more weatherization programs to reduce energy bills and curb energy consumption by Maine homes and businesses.
By moving to zero-polluting trucks, buses, cars, bikes and clean power, Congress has the chance to establish America as a global leader in a quickly growing market, while creating new jobs. This federal investment would provide resources to deliver on the promise of a new statewide clean transportation roadmap to make electric vehicles more accessible and affordable, and Maine’s Climate Action Plan to reduce pollution from the transportation sector by reducing trips made by cars or trucks through investments in public transit, biking and walking.
There is overwhelming public support for these common-sense policies. A recent poll shows that by a 26-point margin (61 percent to 35 percent), voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District favor a bold infrastructure investment in climate action and clean energy. A 2020 poll of Maine voters found that more than 80 percent support reducing pollution by expanding solar energy and creating a statewide public transportation network connecting cities and towns with bus services.
In Maine, we have a history of tackling big challenges by leading on new paths and solutions for our country. It is time for Congress to support investments in clean energy sources and strengthen our economy with modern, clean transportation options while ensuring we leave the next generation, and the one after that, a healthier planet and future.