United States

Maine unveils $3.94 billion transportation plan

(The Center Square) – In a work plan to improve Maine’s highway infrastructure, the state would spend nearly $4 billion over the next three years.

The state’s Department of Transportation unveiled Wednesday the $3.94 billion initiative aimed at capital projects and programs, highway maintenance and operations efforts, planning initiatives, and administrating programs.

“Strong support for infrastructure at both the federal and state levels gives us reasons to be optimistic about the future of transportation in Maine,” Bruce Van Note, commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation, said in a release. “We are continuing our shift from making do to making pragmatic progress. If we set reasonable goals that fit Maine’s needs, manage costs with practical ingenuity, and find the funds needed to match available federal funds, all Maine people can realize the enhanced safety, economic opportunity, and quality of life that comes with a better transportation future.”

The multi-year plan, according to the release, was crafted through a unique set of challenges and opportunities, with the largest being structural. The state uses a multimodal transportation system due to geology and weather challenges presented through a mostly aging and rural population.

As construction costs continue to rise, the state is employing “a MacGyver” approach while stewarding public funds, the release reads.

The department, according to the release, plans to use funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to shore up financing for projects as inflation has caused construction prices to rise. Under the law, 11% of the funding for the project stems from the federal government.

The plan, according to the release, will spend $2.2 billion for highway and bridge capital projects. This includes 302 bridge projects at a cost of $706 million. It would use $575 million for preservation paving of 1,178 miles of roads, and $475 million earmarked for 271 miles of highway construction and rehabilitation.

According to the release, 264 highway safety and spot improvements will be made at a cost of $190 million, and 2,073 miles of Light Capital Paving will be conducted at a cost of $116 million.

The plan also encompasses replacing 75 miles of rail on CSX’s Waterville-Mattawamkeag Line that will permit heavier freight cars to use the line at higher speeds. That project carries a cost of $42.5 million. In addition, a new hybrid electric vessel will be constructed for $35 million for the Maine State Ferry Service to Lincolnville and Islesboro.

“The team at MaineDOT is skilled at both responding to challenges and embracing opportunities both of those qualities are evident in this Work Plan,” Maria Fuentes, executive director of the Maine Better Transportation Association, said in a release. “Continued support for infrastructure at both the federal and state levels gives Maine the ability to make new investments in its transportation system. Those investments support thousands of jobs in our state. We share the optimism that a better transportation system is within our reach.”

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