Independent candidate for governor Eliot Cutler said Tuesday that Maine is falling behind in maintaining transportation infrastructure and, if elected, he would be more aggressive in securing bonds to fund the needed work.

“Building a 21st century infrastructure will cost money, but our roads and bridges will not fix themselves,” said Cutler, who was making the first of several planned policy rollouts. “The amounts that we will borrow and invest will be significant, but the returns on our investments will be substantial.”

Cutler outlined 21 priority areas, including better capital budgeting in transportation, smarter leveraging of federal funds and improving Maine’s three main shipping ports. He also included broadband and cellphone networks as infrastructure that sorely needs upgrades.

He said Gov. Paul LePage has been holding bonds hostage for political purposes.

LePage has supported transportation bonds during his time as governor, but he has delayed implementation of those bonds as a way to maintain leverage over lawmakers on other policy issues.

“Thanks to our governor being asleep at the switch, we’ve missed the opportunity to borrow money at the lowest rates in our lifetimes, but rates are still low, and we should seize the opportunity while we have it,” Cutler said during an event in Portland’s Harbor View Memorial Park, which overlooks the Casco Bay Bridge and the city’s revitalized marine terminal.

Cutler’s transportation and infrastructure plan builds on many ideas already outlined in his book, “A State of Opportunity.”

Brent Littlefield, LePage’s campaign spokesman, said Cutler’s plan is long on words and short on action.

“Governor LePage believes in action, not words. That’s why in just his first year in office, Governor LePage’s Department of Transportation completed more projects – road improvements and infrastructure fixes – than Governor Baldacci did previously while spending $100 million less,” Littlefield said in a statement, adding that LePage also has a new $2 billion plan to improve Maine’s roads and bridges.

Lizzy Reinholt, spokeswoman for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, said Cutler’s plan lacked details and cost estimates. She said Michaud is the only candidate with a track record of securing infrastructure funding, citing several examples during his 12 years in the U.S. House.

“Throughout his time in the Legislature as chair of the Appropriations Committee and a member of the Transportation Committee in Congress, Mike has demonstrated a proven ability to get things done and a commitment to investing in our infrastructure, including bipartisan ways to invest in roads, bridges, ports, rail and broadband Internet,” Reinholt said.

When asked how Maine would pay for investments in infrastructure, Cutler mentioned tolls, changing the gas tax and creating a vehicle use tax as options but said he would work with lawmakers to come up with the best solution.

Cutler’s policy rollout Tuesday was the first of what his campaign says will be several detailed initiatives designed to separate the independent, who finished second to LePage in the 2010 governor’s race from the two major party candidates.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell