Adapting to the times
Looking ahead to three-quarters of a century at the MBTA
It was the traditional passing of the torch at the 74th MBTA Annual Meeting, May 9at the Augusta Civic Center. Handing off the torch was outgoing MBTA President Doug Hermann, who had seen the organization successfully through a challenging year. Receiving the torch was incoming President Tom Gorrill, who seized the opportunity to urge MBTA members to look forward as the organization approached its 75th anniversary.
“Things have changed dramatically since 1939, and we have had to change with the times,” said Gorrill, speaking to the 220 MBTA members, friends and other transportation leaders gathered for the annual event. “We need to continue to adapt to the times, if we hope to keep a competitive transportation system so vital to supporting a strong economy.” He also called for the MBTA to “sharpen its focus on its organizational strengths” and to take the lead in furthering its mission.
“We must figure out what we do best – what is our niche? How do we best serve the needs of our diverse membership? There are construction associations that focus on labor issues, training, and safety on the work site . . . There are engineering organizations that focus on technical issues, professional development, and much more,” said Gorrill. “MBTA, on the other hand is not an organization that serves a specific industry, as you can see by looking through our directory of members. Our focus is advocating for funding for transportation infrastructure, and we look to our members, to other organizations and partners to support us with this mission.”
Gorrill announced an ambitious agenda for this coming year, beginning with a reassessment of the MBTA’s strategic plan, last undertaken six years ago.
“Last time we updated our strategic plan was in 2007, led by past president Tim Folster,” said Gorrill. “The world has changed since 2007. I know I am not running my business the same way I did in 2007, and I doubt your organizations are being run the same way. Similarly, the MBTA has changed with the times. What we have done in the past doesn’t necessarily work in the future.”
Gorrill called for MBTA members to enthusiastically launch the organization’s latest initiative – the Fix It NOW! campaign – conceived during his predecessor Doug Hermann’s term. Gorrill said that will include using a four-pronged approach of research, partnering, public education and public involvement.
Said Gorrill: “Our Fix it NOW! campaign is an effort to raise awareness about the need to invest more in transportation and figure out a way to get information about local projects to the people. We are planning to ‘take it to the streets,’ so to speak. People in Augusta and Washington know what groups like ours think about transportation, but they need to hear from many others. They need to hear from people other than the ‘usual suspects.’”
Even before the ceremonial transfer of power, MBTA members were looking ahead, beginning with a panel titled “On the Road: Looking Forward,” with MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt and Maine Turnpike Executive Director Peter Mills and moderated by the MBTA’s Hermann. Hermann launched the panel discussion with his characteristic dry humor.
“Good afternoon,” said Hermann. “My name is Doug Hermann and I’m president of the Maine Better Transportation Association for the next four hours.”
The Bernhardt-Mills talk has become something of a tradition in recent years, as the leaders of Maine’s two transportation agencies meet with MBTA leaders to discuss their respective work plans for the coming year. The event was “sold out,” with MBTA members eager to hear the transportation chiefs’ respective forecasts for the coming year.
For his part, Mills began by talking about the past year, one of unprecedented safety on the turnpike. “This is the first year we have had no fatalities on the highway,” said Mills. He also touched on his agency’s recent successful launch of highway speed tolling at the New Gloucester toll plaza, and work the authority plans to undertake during the next several years to maintain and update its electronic tolling infrastructure, along with successful efforts to keep costs to a minimum and eliminate the need for a toll increase until at least 2018.
Bernhardt spoke about several issues that were part of the current budget and that were yet to be resolved by the state legislature, including a decision on the reallocation of General Fund-Highway Fund support for the Maine State Police, harmonization of truck weight rules and extension of the department’s Municipal Partnership Initiative that is set to be expanded from $7 million in the last biennium to $10 million in the new work plan. He noted that the department planned approximately 600 miles of light capital paving annually over the next two years “to keep user costs down.” He also talked about the department’s internal efforts to contain costs, including continued staff reductions.
“We’re eliminating more positions this year,” said Bernhardt. “And since 2005, we’ve cut 340 positions and approximately 450 paychecks equaling approximately $23 million.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the Maine Legislature did not yet pass a transportation bond by the session’s end, what will and will not be included in the new MaineDOT work plan has yet to be determined as of press time. MaineDOT had programmed $100 million in new bond funding in its 2013-2015 work plan, and projects will have to be cut if a bond is not negotiated by leadership by year-end. Since the annual meeting, MaineDOT announced that it will cut its light capital paving program from 600 miles a year to 500 miles over the next two years, due to budget constraints.
For all the talk about looking ahead, MBTA members were certain to look back at the past year’s achievements and express their gratitude to outgoing MBTA President Hermann for his leadership. The MBTA presented Hermann, an avid outdoorsman and hiker, with a token of its appreciation, a framed photograph of Mount Katahdin – and a rousing round of applause. As Gorrill noted: “Doug’s dry sense of humor, keen sense of the challenges facing our members, incredible generosity – not only financially but of his time and knowledge – and certainly his competitive spirit - have served the association well.”
- Anderson Equipment Company
- The Lane Construction Corporation
- Auburn Concrete
- Berkley Surety Group
- H.O. Bouchard, Inc.
- Chadwick-BaRoss, Inc.
- Cross Insurance/Cross Surety
- T.Y. Lin International
- Bruce A. Manzer, Inc.
- CPM Constructors
- Milton CAT
- The Rowley Agency, Inc.
- VHB/Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.
- A.D. Electric, Inc.
- F.R. Carroll, Inc.
- Darling’s Auto Group
- Fay, Spofford & Thorndike, LLC
- GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc.
- Milone and MacBroom, Inc.
- Parsons Brinckerhoff
- Pike Industries
- Sargent Corporation
- Shaw Brothers Construction Inc.
- Whited Peterbilt of Maine
- Willis of Northern New England, Inc.
- Wyman & Simpson, Inc.
- @WORK Personnel Services, Inc.
- CCB, Inc.
- Ciment Quebec
- Clean Harbors
- John T. Cyr & Sons, Inc.
- Gorham Sand & Gravel, Inc.
- R.J. Grondin & Sons, Inc.
- Haley & Aldrich, Inc.
- Hanover Insurance Company
- Hews Company LLC
- Jordan Equipment Co.
- Maine Drilling & Blasting, Inc.
- Maine Tourism Association
- McFarland Johnson, Inc.
- Portland International Jetport
- Pratt & Sons, Inc.
- E.J. Prescott, Inc.
- Prock Marine Company
- Skillings-Shaw & Associates, Inc.
- Strescon Limited
- Thompson Rolec Enterprises, LLC
- Wellman Paving, Inc.