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January 26, 2021

State transportation plan maps out $2.7B in projects over next 3 years

Bruce Van Note at a road construction site Photo / Tim Greenway Bruce Van Note, commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation, told Mainebiz he hopes Congress and President Biden can advance the infrastructure package unveiled on Wednesday.

In its latest three-year work plan, released Monday, the Maine Department of Transportation has laid out a roadmap for 2,180 projects worth a combined $2.71 billion.

The plan includes nearly $1.4 billion for highway and bridge capital projects from 2021 to 2023. Among other goals, it foresees 166 bridge projects at an estimated cost of $504 million and 100 miles of highway construction and rehabilitation for $212 million.

"Despite significant challenges arising from the pandemic, this work plan maintains essential service and provides for solid capital programs," the Maine DOT said in a news release. "It does so with robust and prudent state bonding made possible by historically low interest rates and by fully utilizing discretionary and extraordinary federal funding. It also seeks to expand partnership programs, support existing and emerging businesses, refocus investment in our villages and confront climate change."

The department also noted that despite a difficult year in 2020, the on-time delivery rate for its current capital program was a record 94% in 2020.

'Move Maine forward'

Maine DOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note also alluded to the high delivery rate in an "On the Record" interview with Mainebiz published in November.

"Long-term," he said via Zoom, "there’s going to have to be some broad bipartisan conversations about how we fund transportation, and we do need more revenue, but now is not the best time for that conversation.

"Given rock-bottom interest rates, we’re probably going to have to rely on bonding to get us through this pandemic. That would mean probably a bond larger than $100 million ... and it might need to be in June instead of November to get us through."

In Monday's news release, Van Note said that "the short-term focus would be on defeating the virus, restoring the economy, helping Maine people and businesses in need and addressing budget shortfalls."

He added that "in the long term, we have great opportunities to make a real difference for the people of Maine after we resolve the chronic funding challenges in our transportation system. By investing in transportation, we can move Maine forward."

New plan's notable projects

  • Construction of the I-395/Route 9 Connector in Brewer/Eddington (estimated cost: $90.8 million), partially funded by $25 million in federal grant money.
  • Replacement of two bridges that carry I-295 in Yarmouth and two that cross I-295 in Freeport (estimated cost of all four projects: $38.8 million), partially funded by $18.9 million in federal grant money.
  • Replacement of the Route 1 (Station 46) Bridge in Woolwich (estimated cost: $32.5 million), partially funded $25 million in federal grant money.
  • Bridge replacements and intersection improvements in Old Town and Stillwater (estimated cost: $20 million), partially funded by $10.7 million in federal grant money.
  • A railroad siding and platform project to improve Downeaster service in Wells (estimated cost: $23 million), partially funded by $16.2 in federal grant money.
  • Continued work on the Acadia Gateway Center project in Trenton (estimated cost: $23 million), partially funded by $12.8 million in federal grant money.
  • Two Maine State Ferry Service vessel replacements (estimated cost: $19 million).
  • Heavy rehabilitation work on U.S. Route 1 in Machias and East Machias (estimated cost: $6 million).
  • Dredging Searsport harbor (estimated cost: $5.3 million).
  • Improvements to the Eastern Trail in Scarborough (estimated cost: $4.8 million).

The Maine DOT noted that the work plan depends on funding assumptions involving state Highway Fund revenue, state bonding and federal funds, and made the disclaimer that adjustments may be needed in case of any funding changes.

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