Maine’s roads, bridges, rail lines and public transit systems are in such rough shape that not even the $100 million in funding passed by voters last year nor the $100 million slated to be on the ballot in each of the next two years are enough to catch up. Really, the money is only enough to keep from falling too far behind.

That should be enough to raise questions about why the state isn’t investing in the infrastructure that allows businesses to ship goods, and tourists and residents to get around. But for now, it’s plenty of reason to vote yes on Question 3 on the statewide ballot.

Question 3 asks voters to allow the bonding of $105 million “for construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities or equipment related to ports, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit and bicycle and pedestrian trails.”

The money would leverage an estimated additional $137 million in federal and other funds. According to the Office of the Treasurer, it would cost taxpayers just under $134 million when interest is considered.

Out of the total from Maine state taxpayers, $80 million would go toward work on the top priority state highways, on bridges, and on municipal roads through partnerships with towns and cities.

Another $20 million would go toward multimodal projects — ports, harbors, marine transportation, aviation, freight and passenger railroads, public transportation, and bicycle and pedestrian trails.


The remaining $5 million would fund grants for upgrades of municipal culverts at stream crossings where animal habitat or community safety is threatened.

The bond is part of a three-year plan from Gov. Paul LePage that could raise more than $300 million for transportation projects. Even with the full amount, the Department of Transportation will fall short of its goals for funding infrastructure improvements. The agency’s Keeping Our Bridges Safe report calls for doubling the annual investment on bridges alone. Maine’s Strategic Transit Plan for 2025 says the state meets only 17 percent of its needed investment in public transportation.

Where does that perennial underfunding leave us?

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2016 report gives Maine a C or lower in roads, airport/aviation, bridges, rail and public transportation, with eight areas showing a decline from its previous report. Maine’s funding gap is about $68 million a year, the report says, even assuming the bonds all pass.

By another measure, the state’s rural roads qualify as the 15th worst in the nation, with 19 percent in poor condition.

That hurts the businesses that have to ship and receive goods in the far corners of our state. It impedes a tourism industry in which 90 percent of out-of-staters come here by automobile. And it detracts from the quality of life, and adds to the cost of car repairs, for residents.

That’s not to mention the health, lifestyle and climate implications of building a better public transporation system, or more and improved walking and biking trails.

Maine’s transportation infrastructure — and by extension, its economy — are screaming for greater investment. Voters can take an important, if not wholly sufficient, step in the right direction by approving Question 3 Nov. 7.

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