Bad roads and bridges cost Maine $1 billion / year

Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost Maine motorists a total of $1 billion statewide annually – $1,035 per driver in the Portland urban area – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. Increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Maine, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization.

The TRIP report, Maine Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Maine, 26 percent of major urban locally and state-maintained roads are in poor condition. Thirty-four percent of Maine’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with drivers wasting significant amounts of time and fuel each year. And, more than 700 people were killed in crashes on Maine’s roads from 2010 to 2014.

Driving on deficient roads costs each Portland area driver $1,035 per year in the form of extra vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and fuel due to congestion-related delays, and the costs of traffic crashes in which roadway features likely were a contributing factor. A breakdown of the costs per motorist in Portland and a statewide total is below.

The TRIP report finds that 56 percent of major roads in the Portland urban area are in poor or mediocre condition, costing the average motorist an additional $524 each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

“Maine’s transportation system is the cornerstone of the state’s economy,” said Paul Bradbury, P.E., Airport Director, Portland International Jetport.  “Every business in Maine depends on it, as do our citizens.  That’s why Question #6, the transportation bond on Maine’s statewide ballot, is so important.  It will make needed investments in our bridges and roads, as well as our airports, marine and rail facilities, and trails systems, while leveraging millions of dollars in federal funds.  This is critical for the safety of the traveling public, and for the many businesses across Maine that depend on our system to ship their products to market.”

Traffic congestion in the Portland area is worsening, causing 14 annual hours of delay for the average motorist and costing each driver $332 annually in lost time and wasted fuel.

A total of 34 percent of Maine’s bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards. Fifteen percent of Maine’s bridges are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. An additional 19 percent of the state’s bridges are functionally obsolete, which means they no longer meet modern design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment. In the Portland urban area, 11 percent of bridges are structurally deficient and 25 percent are functionally obsolete.

Traffic crashes in Maine claimed the lives of 737 people between 2010 and 2014. Maine’s overall traffic fatality rate of 0.92 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is lower than the national average of 1.08. But, the fatality rate on Maine’s rural non-Interstate roads was 1.32 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2014, nearly three and a half times higher than the 0.39 fatality rate on all other roads and highways in the state.

The efficiency and condition of Maine’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $89 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in Maine, mostly by truck. Eighty percent of the goods shipped annually to and from Maine are carried by trucks and another 14 percent are carried by courier services or multiple mode deliveries, which include trucking.

“These conditions are only going to get worse if greater funding is not made available at the state and local levels,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Without adequate investment, Maine’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, hampering economic growth and quality of life of the state’s residents.”

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Editorial: ‘We can’t move forward without funding transportation infrastructure’

A recent editorial in the Portland Press Herald by Maine Transportation Committee Chair Andrew McLean lays out the challenge ahead. He notes that, for our state, reliable and safe roads and bridges are critical for Maine’s key industries including agriculture, forestry, fishing, construction and tourism.

He also makes the case for the state taking a leadership role in funding essential repairs: “…We’re falling short of what’s needed just for basic road and bridge maintenance by roughly $168 million each year. Last year, the department presented the “Keeping Our Bridges Safe” report, which stated that we need to spend $70 million more per year just to keep our bridges safe.”

What’s the solution? McLean reports that the legislature’s Transportation Committee currently is looking at several possible options.

Watch this space! Fix It Now! Maine will be following developments at the State House and report back.

Difficult choices put hardship on Maine’s rural communities

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.”

Certainty is worth a lot: the federal FAST Act and what it means for Maine

The U.S. Senate and House have agreed on a five-year transportation reauthorization, and after the final votes in both houses, it will  go to President Obama to be signed into law.  “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,” or the FAST Act, will grow annual federal highway investment by 15.1 percent from the current $40.3 billion to $46.4 billion by FY 2020.  It  also will boost core transit program investment by 17.8 percent from $10.7 billion to $12.6 billion in FY 2020.

The FAST Act would also be the longest duration surface transportation reauthorization bill this country has had since 2005, when Congress approved a five-year reauthorization bill. Since that time, states like Maine have been struggling to patch up their roads and bridges and cope with uncertainty. While the FAST Act does not provide a permanent solution to the huge gap in the Highway Trust Fund’s revenue streams, it provides more certainty than continuing resolutions or other short-term extensions.

According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the FAST Act includes the following:

  • A new $1.26 billion per year National Highway Freight Program that will provide funds to all states for highway-specific freight improvements;
  • A new $900 million per year Nationally Significant Freight & Highway Projects Program allowing the Secretary of Transportation to make grants to large-scale, multi-modal transportation infrastructure projects;
  • Substantial cuts to the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation credit assistance program from the current level of $1 billion to $275 million in FY 2016 (growing to $300 million in FY 2019 and 2020);
  • Strengthened abilities for the U.S. Department of Transportation to set schedules and deadlines for other agencies participating in environmental reviews as well as limiting the number of alternatives which must be analyzed before a project can move forward;
  • Provisions to help eliminate duplication of reviews in the transportation planning and environmental approval processes in addition to requiring multiple reviews among agencies to be coordinated at the same time as opposed to being done one after the other;
  • Expanded opportunities for both the use of categorical exclusions (CEs – the lowest form of environmental review available) and delegation of environmental reviews to states;
  • Increased transparency on how federal highway funds are used in each state and the benefits delivered from these investments;
    An expansion of a current exemption to the hours of service rule for drivers of construction vehicles, allowing those operating within a 75-mile radius to restart their work week after 24 hours of rest, rather than 34 hours, which is the standard for other drivers.  The Act also exempts drivers of ready mix concrete delivery vehicles from many requirements of the hours of service rule, provided they meet certain conditions as to radius of operation, on-duty time and drive time.

Maine set to average $195 m / year
With baseline annual federal funding in 2015 of $178.2 million, Maine’s portion of the pie will be $204.4 million in 2020. That represents average annual federal funding of $195.5 million for our state over the next five years. This chart developed by Eno Center for Transportation shows state-by-state funding levels under the FAST Act.

Maine’s net gain after five years will be approximately $26 million – or about a 15 percent increase in federal transportation dollars. While it will certainly help as Maine  works to fix its aging roads and bridges, it comes nowhere near to the level of investment we need to fix it now.

But it is a starting point, and we hope you will stay tuned and work with us as we continue to fight for increased transportation investment to “fix it now” for Maine.


TRIP Report: One in three Maine bridges deficient or obsolete

As Maine prepares to go to the polls and decide on Question 3, the $85 million transportation bond, a new report underscores that money is badly needed to repair or reconstruct Maine’s aging bridges. According to to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization, more than one-third of Maine’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, with bridge conditions projected to worsen in the future if additional funding is not made available. The report notes that an annual bridge investment of $140 million is needed to maintain the state’s bridges in their current condition, while an annual investment of $217 million would be needed to maintain the entire bridge system and substantially meet service, condition and safety goals.

The TRIP report, Preserving Maine’s Bridges: The Condition and Funding Needs of Maine’s Bridge System finds that 15 percent of Maine’s state and locally maintained bridges are structurally deficient, which means there is significant deterioration of the bridge supports or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight vehicles or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, school buses and emergency service vehicles. In Southern Maine, 10 percent of bridges are structurally deficient. Eighteen percent of Maine’s bridges are functionally obsolete, meaning they no longer meet modern design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment. In Southern Maine, 22 percent of bridges are functionally obsolete.

The report includes a full list of the structurally deficient bridges in Southern Maine that carry at least 500 vehicles per day. A statewide list of the 205 structurally deficient bridges in Maine that carry at least 500 vehicles per day, as well as additional information, including condition ratings for key bridge components for each bridge, can be found in Appendix A.

“Maine’s transportation system is the cornerstone of the state’s economy,” said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “Every business in Maine depends on it, as do our citizens. It is critical that we increase the level of investment in our bridges, first and foremost for the safety of the traveling public, but also for the many businesses across Maine that depend on our system to ship their products to market. The TRIP report tells us what MaineDOT engineers have also told us: we need to invest more in our bridges in order to ensure safety and ensure that Maine is competitive.”

“Maine’s transportation network is at the heart of our financial success as a state,” said Mayor Linda Cohen, City of South Portland. “Moving people and goods requires strong roads, bridges, and port systems. This transportation infrastructure provides Mainers with the opportunity to work, live, and play in the place we call home. In my home city of South Portland, our bridges tie together an interconnected local system of land, air, and sea. It is critically important to continue improving the condition of our infrastructure and building a stronger future for Maine.”

MaineDOT’s current annual bridge funding of $70 million per year is the same level of annual investment from 2007 to 2009. The state’s bridge funding increased to an average of $112 million per year from 2009 to 2013 as a result of the authorization of $160 million in TransCap bonds. According to a recent MaineDOT report, under current funding levels the share of the state’s bridges in poor condition would triple by 2021, from 11 percent to 33 percent.

“Maine’s bridge conditions are only going to get worse if greater funding is not made available,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Additional, consistent funding must be provided to improve the condition of Maine’s bridges, which are a vital part of the state’s transportation network and critical to economic growth and quality of life.”


WSJ: Nation’s Crumbling Roads Put a Dent in Drivers’ Wallets

In case you missed it, a recent article in The Wall Street Journal headlined, “Nation’s Crumbling Roads Put a Dent in Drivers’ Wallets,” details the increased cost that individuals and businesses pay due to rough roads and deteriorating bridges.

Check out the article here:

You can download a copy of the TRIP report that reports those costs here:

Economist: Fixing roads will pay for itself

Larry Summers, a Harvard University professor and former treasury secretary and director of the National Economic Council in the White House, wrote this piece for the Washington Post that talks about the simple economics behind infrastructure investment.

It makes a lot of sense and we have seen it at work right here in Maine: 1) good transportation infrastructure creates good-paying construction jobs; 2) they reduce the costs of travel and transport for individuals and businesses; and 3) they encourage new businesses to locate in Maine.