The Maine Department of Transportation's (MDOT) new three-year work plan seeks to address an increasing number of delayed improvement projects amid a funding shortfall.
"The fiscal challenge required us to prioritize even more and rely on less-reliable bond and competitive federal grant funding for basic needs," MDOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note said in a news release. "With lower levels of capital project production, we are focusing on essential safety needs, bridges, matching federal funds, and low cost patching of higher-priority roads until normal treatments become fiscally possible.”
“The reality is that we are now competently managing a slow decline of our transportation system until bipartisan funding solutions materialize,” Van Note added. “The system will not fail immediately, and we will do our best to avoid any serious safety impacts, but holding actions only work for a short time, and the reliability of the system will suffer."
The plan, which covers calendar years 2020, 2021 and 2022, includes all capital projects and programs, maintenance and operations activities, planning initiatives, and administrative functions.
There are 2,051 individual work items with a total estimated value of $2.59 billion.
“Due to cost increases arising from workforce challenges, work constraints, and other factors, making old projects whole at the beginning of this Work Plan process has required an extraordinary amount of funding,” the release states. “The bottom line on this year's Work Plan is higher than last year's (largely due to increased levels of one-time infusions of federal grant money), higher costs will yield lower levels of capital project production in terms of miles of paving, numbers of bridges, etc.”
The biggest concern is the 100-year-old Madawaska-Edmundston International Bridge, which connects the Canadian province of New Brunswick with the northernmost tip of Maine and has experienced major deterioration.
The Maine Legislature last year established the Blue Ribbon Commission To Study and Recommend Funding Solutions for the State's Transportation Systems. Commission members have identified an annual unmet funding need of approximately $232 million, the release states, and will continue their efforts this year to come up with “a nonpartisan solution to MaineDOT's chronic funding problem.”