Some closing thoughts and thanks
By Scott Leach, MBTA President
I began my time as president of the Maine Better Transportation Association talking about transportation policy and funding, and it is no surprise that is how I am ending my term. If there's one thing that the budget shortfalls and massive cuts in MaineDOT's biennial work plan over the past 18 months have shown us, it is that we can't afford to stand on the sidelines and be reactive.
During the past several decades, Maine has watched passively as our transportation investments have declined. That decline increased so alarmingly during the past several years that even with a large $815 million transportation funding package on the table, we are not putting a dent in the backlog of aging highways and bridges. Maine desperately needs to redraw its map for the future and to develop innovative policy and new sources of funding that will ensure the future of Maine's transportation system.
In this issue of Maine Trails, you can read about several initiatives underway that show promise as we work with MaineDOT, the legislature, the governor and community leaders to redraw that map. First, there is the introduction of LD 1790, "An Act to Secure Maine's Transportation Future." The legislation is sponsored by Senator Dennis Damon (D-Hancock County) and is the only plan on the table that offers a long-term solution to our funding crisis. MBTA is advocating strongly for its passage. There is also MaineDOT's new 20-year plan titled "Connecting Maine." It's a document that takes a close look at the scarce funding resources for transportation in our state and the great need for investment in our transportation systems. While it doesn't come with a funding plan, we are hopeful that the Governor and MaineDOT will develop one after it completes its public input process.
External events during recent months only underscore the magnitude of this funding gap. This spring, gasoline passed the $3 per gallon mark, and Washington began calling for higher mileage standards on American cars. If we do nothing, revenues are going to decline even further. The MBTA needs to continue to press for a major overhaul of the Highway Fund and call for a restructuring of how Maine funds its transportation system. We need to continue our call for significant investments in our aging highways and bridges - or risk the increase in highway fatalities, the added cost to our citizens from rough roads and the harm to the economy that lack of investment will bring.
This issue of the magazine also kicks off the summer season with a look at the connection between transportation and tourism. With this industry becoming an ever larger sector of our economy, we need to make sure our transportation network is equipped to handle it. Even more important, tourism experts say, we need smooth roads, safe bridges, efficient buses, ferries and trains to continue to attract this lucrative market. As resources grow tighter, we have to continue to have a strong vision that will guide investment in transportation that serve many people with diverse interests - our residents, our businesses and visitors to the state.
In closing, I would like to say thank you to all the dedicated members and volunteers who make up this association, to the legislators and to our partners at Maine Turnpike Authority and MaineDOT. The MBTA board has been tremendous this past year, and I want to thank each of you, as well as MBTA's Executive Director Maria Fuentes and the entire staff. Working so closely with all of you, I have learned just how lucky our organization is to have such a great team working on the big issues that face us.
I also want to thank Lauren Corey for her assistance, and the many volunteers who serve on various committees. We are so fortunate to have such a diverse, enthusiastic and active membership. Lauren is going to make a great president, and I know you will step up to the plate to help Lauren as you did me. I would also like to thank my employer, Lane Construction Corp. - and in particular Rodney Lane - for their support during the past year. Rodney filled in many times back at the office when I had association business. Last but not least, I want to thank my wife, Susan, for her support and understanding. When I have to spend more time on association business, she needs to pick up the slack at home, and I greatly appreciate it.
I look forward to seeing you at future meetings, and am honored to have served as president of such a great organization. Thank you all for a great year!