Measures of Growth red flags transportation infrastructure in Maine
The annual transportation index notes that an additional $150 million in current capital funding will be needed to meet goals for the state highway and bridge network by 2015.
The annual report notes that an additional $150 million in current capital funding will be needed to meet goals for the state highway and bridge network by 2015.
The Maine Economic Growth Council (MEGC) has once again found Maine’s investment in its transportation infrastructure lacking. That is according to its 2012 Measures of Growth report recently issued that highlights and awards gold stars and red flags to 25 economic measures. MEGC Co-chairs, Senator Chris Rector and Tim Hussey, president and CEO of Hussey Seating Company, presented the report to legislative leaders and the governor’s office on March 6.
This year, only two of the measures received gold stars: international exports and the cost of energy. Five measures, including transportation infrastructure received red flags, highlighting the need for action in order to improve Maine’s economic climate.
In earlier reports, the MEGC has tracked a composite chart called Maine’s Roadway Deficiency Index measuring the percentages of pavement in poor condition, structurally deficient bridges and other measures of road condition. Some of that data was unavailable this year. Consequently, the council this year decided to track management of and investment in the state’s highway system based on highway corridor priorities (HCP) and customer service levels (CSL) – a performance measure system being introduced by MaineDOT to help the agency manage Maine’s roadway assets.
The MEGC measure focuses on MaineDOT’s Priority 1, 2, and 3 roads because these roads represent 19 percent of all public ways and carry 70 percent of all traffic in the state. These roads are the primary links of Maine’s economy and carry the majority of all passenger and freight transportation, while lower priority roads primarily serve local traffic. The MEGC said the state goal is to have all Priority 1 and 2 roads meet a fair or better rating for safety, condition, and service by 2022, and for all Priority 3 roads to meet this standard by 2027.
The MEGC has adopted benchmarks for 2015 consistent with these goals. Currently, 68 percent (1,588 miles out of 2,351 total miles) of Priority 1 and 2 roads score fair or better for safety, condition, and service. The MEGC ’s benchmark is that 81 percent, or 1,906 Priority 1 and Prioirty 2 miles, meet this standard by 2015, meaning 318 road miles must be improved over the next three years.
The MEGC ’s benchmark for Priority 3 roads is for 70 percent to meet the fair or better standard by 2015. Currently, 57 percent of Priority 3 roads meet the standard; meeting the benchmark requires the improvement of 249 miles. Priority 1, 2, and 3 roads need more intensive pavement treatments, an increase in highway reconstruction of two to three times current levels, and a continuation of current efforts to reduce the relatively large inventory of bridges needing repair or replacement.
MEGC notes in the Measures of Growth report that an additional $150 million in current capital funding will be needed to meet those interim goals for the state highway and bridge network by 2015. The MEGC found economic conditions, the repeal of motor fuel tax indexing, and improved vehicle fuel efficiency (that translates into lower revenues from gasoline taxes) undermine Maine’s Highway Fund and concluded Maine would have to reconcile the shortcomings of the existing funding regime and decide whether to meet the state’s highway investment goals through user fees, General Fund revenues, or a combination of the two.
Laurie LaChance, director of the Maine Development Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees the MEGC , said “no one indicator tells the whole story.” Also found wanting were research and development expenditures. Maine’s R&D expenditures as a percentage of gross domestic product was only 1 percent in 2008, the most recent data available. MEGC reported the goal is 3 percent, which would bring Maine in line with the national average. The New England average in 2007 was 4.7 percent.
Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, said those two categories—infrastructure and research and development— suggest the need for a “modest” bond package that could go out to voters later this year.
FMI: To view the full 2012 Measures of Growth in Focus, visit the www.mdf.org.