Maine moving forward: Question 6 transportation bond

By Ed Mazurek | Oct 23, 2009

The backbone of a strong economy depends on a well-built transportation network. Safe, updated roads and bridges are vital for businesses to start up and grow, transport goods, and allow employees to go to work. This November, you will have an opportunity to appropriate funding for needed transportation projects.

One of the lesser known referendum issues on the ballot for Nov. 3 is Question 6. It is a transportation bond that if approved by Maine voters, would fund $55 million in highway and bridge projects, and provide another approximately $14 million to make improvements to state ports, rail lines, airports and ferry facilities, plus add funds to support Maine’s LifeFlight Foundation.

Here is the question as it will appear on the ballot:

Question 6: Transportation bond money

Question 6 would authorize the state to issue bonds in an amount not to exceed $71,250,000 to raise funds for a variety of projects, as described below. The bonds would run for a period not longer than 10 years from the date of issue and would be backed by the full faith and credit of the state. The Department of Transportation would expend $69,750,000 of the bond proceeds for the following types of projects:

  • $55,000,000 for highway and bridge improvement projects statewide

  • $5,750,000 for improvements to the ports at Eastport and Searsport

  • $4,000,000 for improvements to state-owned rail lines

  • $2,000,000 for improvements to publicly owned airports

  • $1,000,000 for ferry facilities

  • $1,000,000 for the LifeFlight Foundation

    A yes vote means that you want the state to borrow this money in order to invest in the projects listed; a no vote means you do not want the state to borrow this money for the projects listed.

    All of what is asked for in this bond question is necessary and timely. Each year the Maine Legislature struggles with finding enough funding to make basic road repairs and infrastructure improvements. This year’s federal stimulus investment stretched just far enough to complete a few projects. We are not alone. Almost every other state in the nation is experiencing the same hardship with dwindling coffers and aging transportation structures.

    During the legislative break, I have spent a good deal of time attending regional conferences so that I can learn about how other cities, towns and states are handling transportation funding. As the House chairman of the Maine Legislature’s Transportation Committee, I have attended the Council of State Governments rail meeting in Vermont, a forum in Bar Harbor to discuss how green spaces such as bike paths play into community planning, a meeting in Belfast regarding the science behind the chemicals we use on our roads to clear ice and snow, and a symposium in Auburn to look at more urban infrastructure for larger cities and towns in Maine. At every one of those meetings, innovative people are working on ways to improve our overall transportation system.

    I came away knowing that the missing piece is a stable funding source so that routine maintenance can take the place of costly major overhaul projects. Just as with anything, keeping up with repairs and completing preventative work early will ensure a longer life to our transportation infrastructure.

    No matter how you feel about this referendum question, or any of the others, please get out and vote on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
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