The Northy Bridge in Whitefield was closed to traffic last week, one of four state-maintained bridges shutdown by MaineDOT for safety reasons since 2011.
The state has a system that prioritizes roads and bridges and has determined it is not high enough priority to merit repair or replacement. While it has been essential for MaineDOT to make these difficult choices in a time of shrinking road funding, the system unfortunately puts an undue burden on rural communities, adding vehicle miles and wear and tear on local residents’ vehicles, reducing efficiency and impacting local economies.
We will have to continue to make these choices as long as we continue to under fund Maine’s transportation infrastructure. What will it take to make headway in fixing Maine’s bridges and avoiding future bridge closures? TRIP, a national transportation research program, noted in a recent report that we need approximately $70 million more to spend on bridges annually just to keep even. We will need even more if we are to reduce the backlog of bridges needing repair or replacement.
The irony is this: a 5¢ increase in the state gas tax would cost most Mainers less than $1 a week. That same small contribution would also generate millions of dollars and could begin to address Maine’s bridge problem. Double that to 10¢ per gallon, and we could make a major progress in fixing both our roads and bridges. We would also be creating economic opportunity for rural Maine communities and hundreds of good-paying jobs for our citizens.
Investing in our infrastructure makes sense. Send a message to the State House, and let’s to “fix it now.”