State Infrastructure Receives C- Report Card

Catherine Pegram

Updated 1 year ago

Local engineers who’ve studied the state’s infrastructure say the system, as a whole, is below average. They’re giving Maine a C-, the same grade the state got four years ago. The Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers issued the report card Thursday.The group says even though the state has gotten some money to improve roads, bridges, airports and the like, it hasn’t been enough to make a lasting impact. The president of the organization says if the state wants to grow economically and maintain its quality of life, investing in infrastructure needs to be a higher priority.Here’s a closer look at the 2012 Report Card for Maine’s Infrastructure:Roads received a D despite some conditions improving marginally due to additional federal funding over past four years.  Thirty-eight percent of Maine’s major roads continue to have only fair to unacceptable conditions. Maine motorists spend an average of $299 per year in extra vehicle operating costs. Maine is the highest of all New England states in miles of highway under state jurisdiction and the lowest for funding per mile. The Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) forecasts a $150 million per year shortfall in funding for transportation over the next 10 years based on current revenue outlook.Bridge (C-) conditions improved over the past four years due to legislation passed in 2008 that provided additional funding, thus changing the grade from a D+ to C-. Currently, twenty-eight percent of Maine’s bridges are listed as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, higher than the national average of twenty-four percent.Railroads (C) continue to be under-utilized in Maine and further investment should facilitate higher use. Maine has 1,154 miles of active railroad and several intermodal facilities, primarily serving the pulp and paper industry. Recent capital projects included track repairs, customer rail sidings and interchange improvements. Rail infrastructure in Maine has improved slightly and MaineDOT’s ownership of active railroad in Maine has risen from 6% to 30% since 2008.Ports & Waterways (C+) have received major investments in past few years, and the grade reflected those improvements, moving from a C- to a C+ since 2008. Maine’s seaports are in good condition, and more than $30 million has been invested in capital improvements over the past four years. Continued investments are still needed to remain competitive, safe, and secure, especially in areas of dredging and maintaining unhindered access to Searsport and Portland Harbor. Long-term investments are required to facilitate projected surges in containerized traffic. Maine should continue to promote enhancements to ports and harbors serving its viable cruise, commercial fishing, and recreation industries.Passenger transportation (C-) includes transit ridership, ferry services, and busing. Transit ridership grew 22% from 2006 to 2010, yet only 46% of Maine transit vehicles are in good condition, down from 55% in 2008. Despite passenger rail’s expansion, long-term sustainable funding remains unidentified. Ferry services provide primary transportation to island communities and have seen marked improvements with facilities and vessels, but the state needs to identify viable funding for vessel replacements to maintain service levels.Airports (B) over the past four years has experienced a number of high profile improvements including twelve runway rehabilitation projects, two major terminal construction/expansion projects and numerous taxiway/apron rehabilitations, obstruction removal and other safety enhancements.  Although Maine ranks last of the New England states in terms of federal grant expenditures per airport, the state’s airport infrastructure is in good condition and has improved from a B- to a B.Dams receive a D+ due to poor conditions and lack of funding. Maine has over a 1,000 dams, most of which are privately owned. Maine continues to fall well below the needed funding for dam safety inspectors and ranks near the bottom nationally for dam safety program funding.Municipal Wastewater (D+) has a $1 billion forecasted need over the next 20 years, but a significant portion of that does not have sustainable funding in place. The primary source of funding is the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF). CWSRF funding is stressed and projected to decrease in coming years. As a whole, the wastewater industry business model of funding capital projects is not sustainable. Simply, the lack of funding for wastewater investment and maintenance adversely affects Maine’s ability to protect public health.While current conditions are safe, Drinking Water (C+) has an estimated $1 billion need over the next 20 years.  An estimated two-thirds of Maine residents are served by 151 public community drinking water systems. Federal and state funding for the last 10 years was approximately $22 million, leaving a potential shortfall of over $500 million. While there has been improved funding for treatment, storage, filtration and security issues, the funding gap is significant, specifically in regard to aging distribution systems.Funding and conditions for Contaminated Site Remediation (C-) has improved.  Petroleum spills still threaten drinking water supplies throughout Maine, as do some landfills. MaineDEP has made adjustments to stabilize the Groundwater Fund (primary funding source for remediation in Maine) and to control the location of above-ground storage tanks. Policies have been established in Maine to investigate, remediate, and redevelop sites where contamination poses a risk to the environment and human health. A new state funding source for landfill remediation and closure goes into effect in 2013.The Solid Waste (C-) disposal rate has declined since 2008: however, per-capita waste generation remains higher than the national rate. Recycling is stagnant and remains below state-established goals. Despite no new landfill capacity and closures of a commercial landfill and an incinerator, capacity exists to meet short term disposal needs: however, changes in policies and long term planning and investment are necessary to ensure that new disposal capacity is developed in a timely manner.PreK-12 Schools (C-) infrastructure is a major issue in Maine as current funding levels result in a projected 20-year gap of $1.7 billion. Less than half of priority health and safety project requests for schools have been funded over the past 10 years. School consolidation has resulted in closure of some deficient schools. The overall health of Maine’s Energy (C+), or electricity infrastructure, has improved since 2008.  Maine’s extensive and diverse generation mix allows Maine to be a provider of electricity and renewable energy credits to the region.  Most weak transmission links and interface limitations identified in 2007 are currently being addressed by the $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Program, which will be complete in early 2015.  Additional maintenance and capital investments are still needed to address the system’s age.State Park (C+) infrastructure investments have declined in last 4 years: however, a backlog of more than $30 million in projects remains. If implemented, these projects would have immediate impacts to the level of service the parks could provide, thus having positive economic impacts to the state as a whole.To view the full version of the 2012 Report Card for Maine’s Infrastructure please visit www.maineasce.org/2012reportcard.htm.


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