A few things we’ve learned on the road with the Fix It Now! campaign. By Jim Hanley.
Big plans. Maine’s only container port is expanding. By Kathryn Buxton.
Terminal celebration. Casco Bay Ferry celebrates new addition.
County concerns. Fix It Now! debuts in Aroostook County.
Fix It Now! Aroostook County profile. By John Melrose
The road home. CPM Constructors and friends pitch in to help homeowners stranded after storm.
Performance measurement pays off. MaineDOT efforts bring predictability. By Bill Pulver, P.E., MaineDOT.
A few things we’ve learned on the road with the Fix It Now! campaign
By Jim Hanley, MBTA President
This past summer, the MBTA was on the road quite a bit. That’s not at all unusual. This group tends to cover a lot of territory, something to be expected because we are about transportation after all. But this summer, there was a unifying purpose to our travels. This was the beginning of an outreach effort to bring our message about the critical need to invest in our transportation infrastructure – the message at the core of the Fix It Now! campaign – on the road.
Here are a few things we have learned so far:
Maine has a lot of roads and bridges that are in need of repair. We saw evidence of that everywhere we went. The journey began in May in Blue Hill with a meeting called by Maine Senator Brian Langley (R-Hancock County), and coordinated by several towns in his district. Many in his constituency are concerned about the deteriorating condition of Route 15 between Blue Hill and Stonington (that road, in fact, was named winner of the MBTA’s 2014 Worst Road in Maine Contest in June).
All told, more than 15 percent of the state’s F-rated priority 3 roads and almost 8 percent of Maine’s D-rated priority 1 and 2 roads are in Hancock County. In Washington and Aroostook counties, where MBTA also launched its Fix It Now! campaign, the problem of poor road condition and safety is prevalent. In Washington County, there are 161 miles of state highways rated D or F for safety or poor pavement conditions.* In Aroostook County, the problem is approaching epidemic proportions: 378 miles of priority 1, 2 and 3 miles are rated D or F. (You can read about the Presque Isle meeting and MBTA’s Fix It Now! findings on pages 27 and 29 of this magazine).
While the research that John Melrose - through Eaton Peabody Consulting - has done for the Fix It Now! campaign has given us a good statistical snapshot of the scope of the problem, the stories we have heard from Maine drivers are just as compelling. In Blue Hill and through the MBTA’s Worst Road in Maine contest, we have heard people compare driving in Maine to driving in the Third World, and describe the challenges of negotiating pothole-strewn roads that resemble the surface of the moon. We’ve learned that people are getting fed up with paying hundreds of dollars, sometimes over a thousand dollars, to repair popped tires, bent rims and alignments due to rough roads.
Maine drivers worry about safety.
Between bridge postings that can delay emergency response vehicles and higher accident rates on unimproved rural roads, Mainers’ worries about their driving safety are well founded. In our recent travels and outreach, we have heard about roads that have caused physical pain (there was one compelling story about a woman with kidney stones and an ambulance ride to the hospital). We have heard about potholes making cargo fly around the inside of a car. We have also listened to some heartbreaking stories about accidents that have happened on rough roads.
This is just the beginning of our journey.
Possibly the biggest lesson we’ve learned is that bringing people together and building a coalition is going to take time. We’ve reached out to officials and residents in just three of Maine’s 16 counties and gotten some great feedback and buy-in for the work we are doing. But we have much more to do. In the coming months, we hope to bring the Fix It Now! message to every region in Maine, and we need your help. So stay tuned and start thinking about how you can help: making connections with local officials, helping to put together a local presentation and by helping to fund Fix It Now! research and an interactive web site that our board of directors is currently putting together. If you can help us, please let Maria Fuentes know (207-622-0526 or Maria@MBTAonline.org).
Finally, I would like to thank all of you who have been so supportive of MBTA’s outreach efforts for Fix It Now! and other efforts. When you attend or sponsor MBTA events – our “issues” meetings around the state, as well as convention and golf tournaments – and most recently the Maine Transportation Achievement Awards – you help us get the word out about the importance of investing in a safe, efficient transportation system for Maine. Thanks so much for your generosity and support. As always, it is a great pleasure to work alongside such a dedicated group of community and business leaders.
*PLEASE NOTE: A road section may be rated “D” or “F” for one or more rating factors. Therefore, a section may be counted more than once.
Cover Story: Big plans
Maine’s only marine container terminal stands to get busier as the state expands its capacity as an intermodal hub
This fall, Shaw Brothers Construction is breaking ground on an $8.57 million construction project at the International Marine Terminal (IMT) in Portland, part of a multi-phase effort to expand port capacity and connect the terminal with the state’s freight rail network. The project is one more in a string of headlines about the port that have heralded the port’s dramatic turnaround from a particularly low point in its recent history.
John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority, notes that much has changed since the height of the recession in 2009 when the port was stung by the shutdown of a barge service to New York that was, at the time, the port’s last regular waterborne freight connection, although for a brief time, there was a container service that connected Portland to the Port of Halifax. That service ended in May 2012 after a brief run, citing lack of steady demand.
Henshaw said, that since those low times, the port has been working to broaden its appeal by investing in infrastructure to streamline the handling of containers, to increase port capacity and to lower shipper costs in order to attract more traffic.
The first bright spot in that recovery was the announcement last year that Icelandic shipper Eimskip was moving its North American operations to Portland. Henshaw says plans for the port will leverage this opportunity, as well as other developments.
“This is not about a single deal; it is about the ability to support a diverse customer base.”
Henshaw notes that by attracting a broad customer base, the transportation mix will be diverse, as well. In addition to Eimskip, rail, over-the-road and a new “marine highway” route will serve domestic and international shippers and markets.
He said that, already, the terminal has handled a wide range of goods, including frozen fish, forest products, lobster, potatoes, automobiles, household goods and building materials, to name but a few.
“Eimskip has even carried a composite bridge to Norway from the terminal,” said Henshaw.
John Duncan, executive director of the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System (PACTS), calls the port the region’s “largest transportation asset” and calls the opportunities it offers local businesses: “a way to send their products to distant markets cost-effectively.”
He said that few people know just how diverse those market opportunities are, and that they are not only buyers for forest products and oil, products typically associated with the port. “When I visited the port in May, there were a dozen electric cars being shipped to Iceland from car dealers here,” said Duncan.
As recently as 2007, the Maine Port Authority was marketing the port of Portland as “the largest tonnage seaport in New England” and as the east coast’s second most active oil port.
The International Marine Terminal, located at the base of the Casco Bay Bridge, was only converted from a mixed-use passenger and freight terminal in 2010 and is now set to double in size and have a direct connection to a rail line. Previously, containers had to be trucked a short distance to the rail loading point at Merrill’s Marine Terminal on Cassidy Point. These developments will lead to critical improvements that will help keep the cost of shipping freight to and from the port competitive.
The expanded terminal will include about 18 acres on the west side of the bridge, plus a five-acre strip of land that will serve as a rail corridor. Improvements in highway infrastructure over the past decade have included construction of the new Veteran’s Memorial Bridge and the Fore River Parkway to facilitate over-the-road access to I-95.
The expansion is one of several projects funded by the $100 million transportation bond approved by voters in November 2013. This work comes on the heels of earlier investments in converting the International Marine Terminal from a mixed-use passenger and freight terminal to a dedicated container facility and dredging the harbor, the latter having been completed just this past winter.
The shoreside port expansion project has required negotiations among multiple parties, including Pan Am Railways, Unitil and Phineas Sprague Jr., a Portland businessman who has been planning to build a boat yard on about 22 acres he owns next to the Casco Bay Bridge.
Those negotiations have had their share of challenges. When MaineDOT took ownership of an 18-acre parcel of Sprague’s land on April 30 by eminent domain, the state gave Sprague $7.18 million, approximately three times what he paid for it two years earlier. Sprague, in August, said he intends to challenge the state’s purchase price because the land is worth considerably more, now that port shipping activity has increased.
Henshaw said that Sprague’s likely legal challenge will not hinder the project getting underway. “That will not impact construction,” said Henshaw.
A new kind of barge
Currently the terminal is used by Eimskip for its container business as well as by other international carriers as an intermodal hub. Eimskip is credited with being one of the port’s major players, leading the way after it moved its U.S. port of call for its own vessels to Portland from Norfolk, Virginia and Boston.
The company already moved 5,000 containers in its first full year and had signed 20 export/import business customers. The firm is poised to stay and has been putting down roots with support for local charities and other events. Larus Isfeld, managing director of Eimskip USA, has said he hopes container traffic will double going forward and has indicated that the new direct rail connection will be important to that goal.
Also part of the port’s big plans are development of a coastal shipping service that would be part of “America’s Marine Highway.” The Maine Port Authority is developing an innovative vessel to carry an array of goods between Portland and the Port of New York/New Jersey.
The project was one of only eight marine highway projects to receive project designation in the Marine Highway Program by USDOT in 2010. A 2012 grant of $150,000 has served as seed money and enabled the Port Authority to do preliminary design of the vessel and service. That work has been completed, and the Maine Port Authority will be delivering it to the U.S. Maritime Administration within the month. More funding will be needed to actually build and put a barge into service, according to Henshaw, who said the new vessel is a sensible investment.
“We believe a barge [designed specifically for the Portland-New York/New Jersey route] is a piece of public infrastructure much like a highway or a bridge would be,” said Henshaw, adding that public support of the route would stop short of operational subsidies. To that end, the Port Authority is planning to market the service as a public-private partnership and has engaged McAllister Towing & Transportation, the largest marine transportation firm in the U.S. (the firm that owns Portland Tugboat LLC) as an operating partner for the service. The current timeline for launch of the service is “realistically in 2017 or 2018,” according to Henshaw.
Nevertheless, Henshaw said, the short-sea service has generated “quite a lot of interest” from manufacturers and others, including Eimskip which sees it as a way to further expand the company’s reach in the American market. “I am confident in the model,” said Henshaw.
Henshaw sees potential in Maine’s other deepwater ports as well, and he expects that continued strategic investments will yield new opportunities. The Port of Eastport recently completed a new bulk handling system and other recent improvements.
That port, championed by an energetic and creative Eastport Port Authority, is diversifying its customer base.
Hopes are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon approve the project to dredge the channel at Searsport, that hasn’t been maintenance dredged since the mid-1960s. That would improve safety and open the port to new markets served by deeper draft vessels that are becoming the standard in the marine freight industry. The recent purchase of the Montreal Maine & Atlantic rail line, which serves the port, by an investment group that has renamed it the Central Maine & Quebec Railway and invested $10 million in new equipment, also bodes well for the future of Searsport. “These are huge positive developments that increase the potential of the port of Searsport and its role in the state’s economy,” said Henshaw.
“We have to continue to be strategic, and it certainly requires that everyone pitch in,” said Henshaw. “But if you think about where we were a few years ago and what happened in the economy, it’s remarkable.”
Casco Bay Lines, Portland and friends celebrated the new, glassy, 4,500-square-foot addition to its terminal the last week of August. “I characterize this year as transformational,” said Hank Berg, general manager of the ferry line at the ceremony christening the new terminal. Berg said the new design will help people see the ferries and better enjoy their time waiting to pick up passengers or to board a ferry bound for the islands. Helping to cut the ribbon at the ceremony were U.S. Senator Susan Collins, MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt and Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, Maine State Senate Assistant Majority Leader Anne Haskell, State Representative Dick Farnsworth and State Representative Arthur Verow, a member of the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation.
"It's an open area, it's light, and there's a lot more room," Berg said. "It's really become a destination, not just a transit stop."
Three years went into planning and construction of the new terminal. The first phase of expansion began last fall and cost $2.8 million. An additional $800,000 will be spent on the marine structure outside the terminal.
“The concept was to blend the inside and outside areas where most activity takes place,” Berg said. The new addition to the ferry terminal, which faces the harbor and offers views of the line’s fleet and boarding areas, opened in early July. It more than doubles the size of the old terminal. And what was once the ticketing area and waiting room will be areas for maintenance, storage, as well as a conference room and employee area. The expansion also fits the shift in gates most frequently used for departures and arrivals.
In 1988 when the original terminal opened, passengers mostly used gates 1, 2 and 3, Berg noted. Larger ferries in service led to a shift to use gates 4 through 6 more frequently.
The new terminal was designed by Portland-based Scott Simons Architects and constructed with Scarborough-based Landry French Construction Company as the general contractor.
A $2.56 million Federal Transit Administration grant for the second phase of work was received in June, a job that will carry its own challenges because of the narrow footprint and shared space beyond the terminal walls. Work in the second phase will include finishing the conversion of the older terminal area to administrative and storage areas and improvements to passenger pickup and drop-off zones, Berg said.
Berg estimated 27,000 vehicles use the car ferry each year, but notes that accommodating vehicles dropping off and picking up passengers will also be a concern. There also may be an opportunity to improve the logistics for freight loading in the second phase.
Ferries departing from the Portland terminal serve six different islands in Casco Bay with daily service from 5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Scheduled ferry service to the islands started in 1870, and in 1878 a permanent year-round company was formed to handle scheduled service to the inner bay islands.
MBTA’s Fix It Now! campaign heads to Aroostook County
Improving and expanding transportation needs in Aroostook County was the focal point of some 70 attendees at the 2014 Aroostook County meeting on August 6 in Presque Isle. The transportation needs forum was co-hosted by MBTA and Northern Maine Regional Planning Commission. An afternoon session featured MBTA Senior Policy Advisor John Melrose presenting an overview of data he collected for the organization’s Fix it Now! campaign. (See page 29 of this Trails issue for John’s report).
President Jim Hanley opened the evening meeting by thanking the two meeting sponsors: Chadwick-BaRoss, Inc. and The Lane Construction Corporation, then introducing some legislative guests. In attendance were: Phil Bosse, U.S. Senator Susan Collins’ office; Sharon Campbell, U.S. Senator Angus King’s office; Barbara Hayslett, representing U.S. Representative Mike Michaud; House Chair of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, Charles “Ken” Theriault (D-Madawaska); Representative Robert Saucier (D-Presque Isle); and Representative Carol McElwee (R-Caribou).
President Hanley also recognized MBTA’s newest corporate member, recruited by John Sturgeon: Bridgham Engineering and Surveying, represented by owner Sharon Daigle-Gerrish and Bill Gerrish. Sturgeon is chair of the MBTA Membership Committee that ends its 2014 recruitment campaign on December 11th at the MBTA Scholarship Meeting in Orono.
Rep. Theriault moderated an evening panel discussion with four local transportation leaders. Nate Moulton, director of the Rail Program at MaineDOT, updated the group on freight rail in The County, highlighting some significant investments funded by the state, the federal government (through Senator Collins’ pursuit of TIGER grants), and the NBM Railways. Moulton also discussed how shipping traffic had quadrupled on parts of the Maine Northern Railway line, enhancing opportunities for shippers. He also provided an overview of challenges and needed improvements, including reviewing key rail bottlenecks, upgrading rail in Van Buren, and reinstating tracks to Oakfield.
Scott Wardwell, director of the Northern Maine Regional Airport in Presque Isle, described the four general aviation airports in the region: Frenchville, Caribou, Presque Isle and Houlton, noting that enplanements peaked in the late 1970s, only to drop by 50 percent following airline deregulation. Current numbers are such that if they drop much more in Presque Isle, the airport may lose $1 million in Federal Aviation funding. Wardwell also listed some projects at the four airports eligible for funding with either a 90 or 95 percent federal match.
Jay Kamm, senior planner with Northern Maine Development Commission, provided an overview of key transportation initiatives, including a collaboration with Washington County (GROWashington-Aroostook Plan), and highlighted five priority corridors in the region, including Route 1, 1-A, 161, 11 and 2. He also discussed safety and freight issues and suggested the region and the state need to come together to develop a funding source, or a combination of traditional and non-traditional transportation funding sources.
Fix It Now! Profile
By John Melrose
Aroostook County, "The Crown of Maine", is the largest county east of the Mississippi and, as such, transportation is a big deal. In addition to being home to a network of 1,106 state highway miles, 12.7 percent of all state roads, there are more than 2,500 miles of private roads. While these private roads primarily serve the forest products industry, they also are important to the state and regional tourism industry.
To the east, north and west are numerous border crossings into Canada including ports of entry in Houlton and Van Buren. There are aviation facilities with Cold War and World War II service records and, of course, the Military Road built in the early 1830s and instrumental in the "Bloodless Aroostook War" of the late 1830s. The County is home to three scenic byways, the occasional transatlantic balloon crossing, an extensive all-season, multi-purpose trail system and, since June of 2011, a resurging rail service, the Maine Northern Railway.
Of all Maine counties, Aroostook experienced the most significant loss of population – 17.3 percent – since the 1990s. Outmigration now appears to be slowing and, with a 2010 census of 71,870, Aroostook is Maine's sixth most populated county. Non-interstate travel in The County declined by 11 percent since hitting a peak in 2004 and today represents 5.8 percent of all such travel in the state.
Aroostook’s economic fortunes rely heavily on reliable, safe and efficient transportation services. Yet, priority 1 and 2 highways in The County reveal a disproportionate share of the state's "D" and "F" rated roads, as illustrated in the accompanying chart. In contrast, Priority 3 highways fare better relative to the rest of the state, but there is a distinct need for paved shoulders throughout the region on these highways to improve safety for motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and a growing number of roller skiers. The influx of Amish communities into the region and their use of horse-powered transportation provides another reason to expand the presence of paved shoulders.
The National Highway System includes I-95 in southern Aroostook and Route 1 from Houlton north to Madawaska. These priority 1 corridors need reconstruction in Blaine, Mars Hill, Grand Isle and Van Buren. The region's priority 2 highways include: Route 1, Madawaska to Fort Kent; Route 161, Fort Kent to Caribou; Route 89, Caribou to Limestone; Route 167, Fort Fairfield to Presque Isle; and Route 163, Presque Isle to Ashland. Of these highways, the greatest needs are again in the St. John Valley and include Route 1 in Frenchville and Route 161 between Fort Kent and Cross Lake. In all, there remains more than 20 miles of reconstruction needs on priority 1 and 2 highways in The County.
There is also one new highway in the works for Presque Isle: the second installment of the long discussed North-South Highway. The first installment was construction of a controlled access highway bypassing Caribou's downtown and connecting Routes 1 and 161. The Presque Isle project, now scheduled for advertisement in the first half of 2015, will connect Route 167 to Conant Road east of the downtown with a current construction cost approximating $10 million. Further heavy lifting is needed to fund the next planned section that would connect Conant Road south to Route 1 near the Westfield-Presque Isle boundary. This project and the Caribou project sort out a conflict common in The County when a high priority road must serve as both a mobility corridor for through traffic and as Main Street for local commerce and services.
As noted in the accompanying table detailing highway ratings, Aroostook's state highways rarely receive a poor rating due to service issues like congestion or road and bridge postings. The poor grades instead pertain to condition or safety. While reconstruction is recommended on the roads noted above, preservation paving is the more common need on priority 1 and 2 highways already built to modern standards. A section of Route 11 north of the 212 junction provides but one example of a paving need long past due.
Within The County, there are 219 bridges with spans 20 feet or greater. Of those, 11 percent are rated structurally deficient and another nine percent are rated functionally obsolete. Statewide 15 percent of all bridges are structurally deficient and 18 percent are functionally obsolete, so Aroostook bridges fare better on average.
However, of particular concern is the 94-year-old Edmundston-Madawaska Bridge crossing the St. John River. Statewide, the average bridge age is 49 and the national average is 41. The St. John River bridge is a border crossing and it has been difficult to achieve consensus on a new location. Time is of the essence and two nations, a state, a province and two communities must come together for a solution that then needs to be designed, permitted and built. Just up river, the folks in Fort Kent and Claire, New Brunswick might have some advice to offer on waiting until it is too late. After 12 years of effort, a replacement bridge and border crossing facility opened this year but not in time to avoid some serious transportation dislocations. Heavy truck traffic was rerouted 15 miles, resulting in up to an additional 60 miles on a round trip.
Aviation, Rail and other modes
Not all transportation needs are met by the public sector, and increasingly public-private partnerships are forming to meet critical transportation needs. A shining example of the potential for such arrangements exists today in the form of the Maine Northern Railway (MNR). Four years ago there was considerable doubt that Aroostook would keep its rail service but today, through a public-private partnership, service continues and is thriving. By year-end, rail traffic is expected to grow fourfold from the 2011 inception of the MNR. Employment at the railroad is up from an initial 23 to 57 today. Sidings are busy and capital improvements are evident everywhere on the line. Ongoing investments in rail, ballast and ties, as well as in sidings, yards, bypasses and wyes, are increasing MNR operating efficiencies with service dividends to customers. New business opportunities, including recent efforts to bring a rail car manufacturer to the Loring Commerce Center, have the potential to reopen rail service to the former air base.
The story of aviation in Aroostook may be less upbeat. There are four general aviation airports in The County: Caribou, Frenchville, Houlton and Presque Isle. Loring is presently classified as a private airport. Only Presque Isle's Northern Maine Regional Airport offers commercial service providing daily direct connections to Boston. Passenger enplanements at this airport hit a high of about 47,000 in 1978. Airline deregulation followed and enplanements dropped by half only to recover briefly in the late 1980s. Today enplanements are just over 11,000. If enplanements drop below 10,000, there is an accompanying risk of losing $1 million in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) entitlement funds. As across the state and in The County, the Northern Maine Regional Airport stays on top of capital needs with steady support from the FAA and some matching assistance from the state. The need at the airport is to support the attraction of more flights, to more airports with better connections to major carriers.
The County is also served by Cyr Bus lines with a single daily round trip beginning in Caribou and connecting with Presque Isle, Mars Hill, Houlton, Oakfield, points further south and on to Bangor to interchange with Concord Coach and Greyhound. Over the past 10 years annual ridership has ranged from 13,510 in 2004 to a high of 17,512 in 2008. The service carried 15,338 in 2013. Bus service is also provided by the Aroostook Regional Transportation System, a non-profit providing demand response services on a scheduled basis throughout all of Aroostook County.
Last but not least in the roll call of Aroostook transportation facilities is the very impressive all-season trail network that serves both residents and tourists. The trail network includes 2,300 miles of snowmobile trails, 1,200 miles of ATV trails and 31 mapped water trails with about 250 miles for paddling. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail covers 740-miles of waterways and traverses New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine terminating in Fort Kent at the confluence of the Fish and St. John Rivers.
As is true across Maine, opportunities abound for capital investments in transportation that will sustain and propel the Aroostook economy. There is a case for reconstructing poor and failing priority 1 and 2 highways in the St. John Valley and proceeding with the replacement of the Edmunston-Madawaska Bridge. The addition of paved shoulders on priority 3 highways would greatly enhance safety. Keeping the momentum going on the north-south highway project in Presque Isle is critical, as are continuing investments in rail throughout The County. New ideas are needed to build commercial air service. The interface of The County's extensive public and private road networks should be re-examined with an eye toward improving the productive use of these assets both in the unorganized townships and at the Loring Commerce Center. Much is left to be done.
The road home
CPM Constructors and friends pitch in to help homeowners stranded after storm
When two Freeport homeowners were left stranded after a torrential downpour washed out the sole bridge connecting them to the town, they were feeling desperate, so they appealed to the public for help. The homes are on Turkey Ridge Lane, a private road not eligible for state or local funding, and the repair was estimated to cost from a prohibitive $80,000 to $100,000.
Andy Kittredge, project manager for CPM Constructors in Freeport, heard about their dilemma, and he knew he didn’t have $100,000 but he did have one thing: the willingness to try and harness the generosity of the construction industry, the town and others.
“The bridge over Allen Brook had completely washed away, so they were stuck – they couldn’t get in or out. I went to the owners of CPM and got their okay, and then I started making phone calls, and asking for donations.”
Kittredge decided to cast his net wide, and asked many companies for moderate donations – one piece of equipment or an operator, as opposed to an entire crew – because he knew firsthand this is the busiest time of year for the construction industry, when companies are scrambling to close down jobs before winter.
He also reached out to general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, truckers and materials suppliers. Some 15 companies agreed to donate equipment, labor, cash or materials to replace the culvert and restore the road for the two families. Finally, he was down to the last $4,500 needed to purchase the pipe that was provided at a steep discount. “At that point, I turned to Heather Shields – a realtor friend - and she generated donations from colleagues in the realty industry. So we are almost at our goal,” noted Kittredge.
Kittredge oversaw the installation of a six-foot corrugated metal pipe, and a three-foot overflow pipe. Next the crew moved 700 yards of fill to bring the roadway back up to grade, then installed 100 yards of gravel with 100 cubic yards of riprap to stabilize the slopes. They also installed recycled guardrail on the reconstructed bridge.
“I am just blown away by their generosity,” said homeowner and nurse Beth Toothaker.
Turkey Ridge Lane Bridge donors
- Anderson Equipment Company, Cumberland Center
- CPM Constructors, Freeport
- Chadwick-BaRoss, Inc., Westbrook
- Copp Excavation, Durham
- Scott Dugas Trucking & Excavating, Yarmouth
- Gendron & Gendron, Lewiston
- Matt Cartmell, Keller Williams Realty, Portland
- Ray Labbe & Sons, Brunswick
- Main Line Fence, Cumberland
- Midcoast Paving, Topsham
- Everett J. Prescott, Inc., Gardiner
- Sunbelt Rentals, Portland
- Heather Shields, Legacy Properties, Portland
- Doug Tourtelotte Excavation, Bowdoinham
- VHB – Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., Portland
Maine DOT View
Performance measurement pays off
By Bill Pulver, P.E., MaineDOT Director of Project Development
Knowing what to expect is a good thing. In the business world, it’s a matter of survival. When it comes to road and bridge construction, MaineDOT drives that economy: 60 percent of our budget goes right back out the door in the form of contracts to private companies. These companies need to know what to expect and what’s coming down the pike, so they can plan accordingly. They need predictability.
Since 2010, when MaineDOT set its measurement targets and began publishing results, we have increased our performance significantly over the 80 percent target. This is a dramatic improvement over the department’s historic experience. MaineDOT has been on a journey to improve the predictability for capital projects being delivered to physical construction.
Developing public infrastructure projects in a predictable manner through the pre-construction phase is sometimes challenging with many unknowns that can develop, such as special permitting requirements, endangered species considerations, historic preservation reviews, property transactions, utility modifications, etc. However, with effective project management and scheduling accompanied by organizational focus and support, and good tracking and reporting tools, a predictable annual project delivery plan is achievable.
MaineDOT measures schedule performance at two important milestones. The first is our Plans, Specifications and Estimate completion milestone, or PS&E, which concludes the design phase of a project. The second is our Advertise milestone, which is the date we advertise the project for bids. While the two milestones are close to each other, the PS&E measurement allows us to capture our design phase performance for projects that are not yet funded for construction, in case financial constraints affect our ability to advertise for bids.
Simply establishing a performance measure and setting a performance target is certainly the first step, Yet there have been several other factors that have greatly contributed to our recent success in this area. Here are some of those factors:
Emphasis, expectation from the top – The commissioner’s office has not only emphasized our goal to deliver “on-time”, but more importantly has articulated the benefits of success in this area, basically building a reputation of integrity and trust for our organization. Broad emphasis from the top gets all organizational units involved in project delivery flying in formation toward a common goal.
A clear definition of the measure – A unified understanding of the measure, and the target, throughout the organization is necessary. Keeping the measure simple has also eased implementation. A project is considered on time if the milestone has been achieved within 30 days of the date set at the beginning of the calendar year. Our performance target for both milestones is 80 percent on-time.
In-it-together philosophy – An atmosphere that the annual result is a measure of MaineDOT’s delivery processes, rather than the performance of a specific project manager or delivery unit, eliminates finger pointing and further promotes focus on timely delivery in all areas.
Management support and troubleshooting – Managers overseeing the project teams or the various activities to be performed for the project must re-emphasize goals, monitor results, look ahead and, most importantly, be willing to roll up the sleeves to troubleshoot significant issues or clear obstacles to keep the team’s project on track. Managers attend monthly production meetings to review the status of the measure and to discuss any projects that appear to be in jeopardy of not meeting the target.
Effective reporting and tracking system – MaineDOT’s information “Dashboard” provides real time, easily accessible performance information and project status tracking. The current status and year-end projection of the performance measure is available to all. Also, changes in project schedules are highlighted, which triggers reaction.
Good ole’ competition – The natural competitive spirit between project teams and units has had more of a positive influence than expected on our on-time results. Program and project managers strive to get the best numbers, rather than just meet the target.
Our on-time measure led to significant improvement in the predictability of project delivery and given stakeholders increased confidence in our published annual schedule; moreover, the focus on this measure has also led to other positive improvements that are paying off in other ways. Progressively, we have experienced better communication, better planning of activities, improved teamwork, less chaos, improved efficiency and production and a better understanding of each other’s work. However, even though we have been above target, there are still plenty of areas to improve on and plenty of things that can cause a hiccup in the annual plan.
At MaineDOT, our core values are integrity, competence, and service. We are continuously striving to be the most trusted organization in Maine.
Saying what we are going to do, then doing what we say is a key aspect of obtaining that goal, and one we will never stop perfecting.