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Maine DOT Unveils 3-Year Transportation Blueprint
01/14/2014   Reported By: Jay Field

Fifty-four bridges and 73 miles of state roads are scheduled to be rebuilt or rehabed this year, as part of Maine's new transportation work plan. Gov. Paul LePage today joined top officials with the Maine Department of Transportation - and the union whose workers carry out the projects - to unveil the three-year blueprint. As Jay Field reports, the total cost tops out at just over $2 billion.

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Projects scheduled to be completed in 2014 are the only ones that are actually paid for at this point. Over the coming year, the Maine Department of Transportation plans to spend $455 million on 425 capital projects. One-hundred million will come from the transportation bond approved by voters last fall.

Inside a DOT garage in Augusta, Gov. Paul LePage took time out from partisan bickering over the budget to hail the rare act of legislative bipartisanship that gave voters the chance to approve the transportation money.

"The bond package was approved by about 70 percent of the voters in Maine. So it was a non-partisan effort," LePage said. "Everybody worked together on it."

Among the projects scheduled to be completed in 2014: replacement of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge between Kittery and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, capital improvements at International Marine Terminal in Portland, reconstruction of the Eastport Breakwater, upgrades at the Brunswick Executive Airport and 11 miles of highway reconstruction on Route 302 between Bridgton and Fryeburg.

"An efficient, safe, reliable transportation system that moves people and goods is essential to growing the state's business and its economy," said David Bernhardt, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation. "I believe that this work plan goes a long way in achieving that mission and the goals of the department."

All the 2014 projects, says Berhardt, are tied to construction schedules that have already been set and published on the Transportation Department's Web site. The work will provide badly needed jobs in Maine's construction sector, where as recently as early last year, says Matt Marks, unemployment topped 26 percent. Marks is executive diretor of Associated General Contractors of Maine.

"Last year, I worried about the talented constructors who would leave Maine for jobs in other states," he said. But Marks says unemployment among his membership has now dropped to 16 percent, a downward trend he expects will continue, as the 2014 transportation projects get under way this spring.

The Transportation Department says it's confident it will secure the state and federal funds it will need to complete the more than 1,000 projects scheduled for 2015 and 2016.



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