Exposing the worst of the worst
Annual ‘Worst Road in Maine’ contest is our chance to raise public awareness of a growing problem
By Deborah Dunlap Avasthi, MBTA President
There’s a contest born of the famous fiction phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night.” It’s called the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, and every year contest judges select the worst first line of fiction entered.
I think of the MBTA’s “Worst Road in Maine” contest in much the same way. While it doesn’t have a fancy Victorian name attached to it, the contest does highlight a similar “worst-of-the-worst” tradition – and unfortunately our contest is all about non-fiction entries. Really, who could make this stuff up? It also has a very serious purpose: to raise awareness of how much bad Maine roads cost Maine people and businesses every day.
The worst of the worst
This year, the second year of the contest, the MBTA expects another good turnout for the “Worst Road in Maine” contest. Last year was a rousing success, and let’s face it, road conditions haven’t improved any since then. Also more people than ever are comfortable with using social media like Facebook and Twitter to voice their opinions about what matters to them.
Last year, the contest earned nearly 1,100 Facebook fans from across the state. It also helped cast the media spotlight on the issue of Maine’s crumbling roads and bridges: that is something we can’t do enough.
To enter the contest, drivers are required to submit a photo of the bad road and a brief description of why the road is so bad. Contest rules and entry forms are posted on a special contest web site (www.FixMaineRoads.org
). Entries also may be submitted via MBTA’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/FixMaineRoads
). Come see what’s already posted. The winner will receive a $250 gift certificate for car repair – the amount a recent study found Mainers pay in extra vehicle repair costs due to bad roads.
Point, shoot and enter
Personally, I’ve already dusted off my camera (my smart phone). And since 26 percent of Maine’s highways have poor pavement according to the Federal Highway Administration, I expect there will be plenty of worst roads to point, shoot and enter.
You can also read your local newspaper for ideas. The Ellsworth American recently reported “potholes on what seems like every local roadway from High Street and Route 1A in Ellsworth to Route 186 in Gouldsboro and everywhere in between.” The Kennebec Journal wrote that the Portland Public Services department “has been fielding calls about the growing number of potholes on a daily basis.” And in Lewiston, The Sun Journal reported that “virtually every street in the city has got some sort of pothole.”
Then there were the television and radio reports of the behemoth 15-foot-by-two-foot pothole on I-95 in Augusta that caused a five-car accident.
Certainly weather and the time of year are partially to blame. During the spring, Maine has more than its share of “dark and stormy nights” when rain, melting snow and the freeze-and-thaw cycle can turn a passable Maine road into the equivalent of a carnival thrill ride. The fix – a temporary patch in the spring and maybe a thin coat of pavement during the summer, doesn’t solve the underlying problem.
A downward spiral
Maine has thousands of miles of state roads in need of major reconstruction and repair and not nearly enough state funding to get the job done. We are facing a 10-year, $320 million shortfall in highway and bridge funding, so unless we do something soon, today’s 15-foot potholes are certain to become an even greater drain on our economy.
Remember, the average Maine driver spends an additional $250 every year to repair vehicle damage caused by bad Maine roads. That means, all told, Mainers spend more than $230 million dollars a year to repair the damage caused by bad roads. Just think: if we could use that money to fix our roads, not our cars, we wouldn’t have a “Worst Road in Maine” contest!
The Worst Road in Maine contest will end in May. I hope you will take time to post your entry at www.FixMaineRoads.org or www.facebook.com/FixMaineRoads. Be sure to encourage friends, family and co-workers to enter, too. Because only by working together can we convince our leaders in Augusta and Washington that fixing Maine roads and bridges is a priority and an investment in our economy – and in our safety.
As you know, we have a busy season ahead of us. I look forward to working with you to raise public awareness of bad roads and hope to see you at our annual meeting in May!