AUGUSTA, Maine — The condition of Maine’s roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure has barely budged in the past four years, highlighting the need for a long-term and sustainable funding stream for infrastructure improvements.

That’s according to a new report card from the state’s affiliate of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Overall, the organization gave Maine’s infrastructure a C-, unchanged from the grade the state received the last time the group published a report card in 2008.

The group unveiled its 2012 report Thursday at a state transportation conference.

“This report is a call to action to improve our quality of life here in Maine,” said Will Haskell, president of the Maine section of the American Society of Civil Engineers and vice president of Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers in Gray.

The report card evaluated 14 categories of Maine’s infrastructure, from the quality of municipal drinking water systems and solid waste facilities, to the condition of the state’s ports and waterways, to the way the it handles the cleanup of contaminated sites.

Maine earned its highest marks this year for the condition of its airports. The state received a B in that category, up from a B- four years ago. The state received its lowest grade, a D, for the condition of its roads. That grade didn’t change from the 2008 report, though the report noted that some conditions improved during the past four years as a result of temporary federal funding.

Some 38 percent of the state’s major roads are in fair condition or worse, according to the civil engineers’ group.

“Our infrastructure system is the very foundation of our way of life, but continues to be neglected,” Lauren Swett, vice president of the group’s Maine section, said in a statement. “Maine’s infrastructure is struggling to meet the public’s needs, and challenges such as underinvestment have left the state susceptible to falling behind.”

The infrastructure report card is the result of 19 Maine civil engineers’ review of hundreds of public records over the past year.

This year’s report card was released about a month after voters signed off on nearly $60 million in borrowing to fund infrastructure improvements in a number of the 14 categories rated by the civil engineers. Voters approved a $51.5 million bond issue to fund improvements for highways, bridges, airports and ports at Searsport and Eastport. They also supported a measure to direct $7.9 million toward drinking water systems and wastewater treatment facilities.

While voters have signed off on the borrowing, it’s unclear when the state will have the money on hand and when the work will begin. Gov. Paul LePage has said he doesn’t plan to issue bonds until he’s able to rein in state spending.

The report’s release also came days after the state’s Revenue Forecasting Committee revised revenue projections for the Highway Fund downward for the coming two-year budget cycle. The forecasts now predict highway revenues during the next two years — which come primarily from the state fuel tax — will fall $20.3 million short of earlier estimates.

Conventional sources of funding for the state’s roads — namely the gasoline tax — aren’t producing the needed level of funds, said Maine Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt.

“People are driving less. People are driving more fuel-efficient cars,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out another source of funding.”

And that funding source is unlikely to be additional transportation bonds, especially for regular road improvements, Bernhardt said. Even if LePage releases transportation bond funding earlier than expected, it won’t make much of a difference in solving the state’s highway funding problem, he said.

“Bonding is just short-term, and you’ve got to pay it back,” Bernhardt said.

Maine’s 2012 grades improved from 2008 in five categories: contaminated site cleanup (D+ to C-), municipal drinking water (C to C+), airports (B- to B), bridges (D+ to C-), and ports and waterways (C- to C+).

The state’s 2012 grades were unchanged in seven categories: roads (D), railroads (C), dams (D+), energy infrastructure (C+), municipal wastewater (D+), passenger transportation (C-) and schools (C-).

While grades stayed the same, the civil engineers’ report noted progress in the roads, railroads and energy infrastructure categories. The report noted backwards movement in passenger transportation due to the condition of Maine’s public transit vehicles.

Maine’s grades fell in two categories: solid waste (C to C-) and state parks (B- to C+).

Bernhardt said the state is making progress on road projects and seeing progress in other areas, including the expansion of Amtrak passenger rail service to Brunswick. The Maine Department of Transportation is also developing a grading system of its own for the state’s roads.

“I can’t tell from the [civil engineers’ society] report card if I’m moving the needle,” he said. “I have to know how much we’re moving the needle.”

Maine’s report card is modeled after the American Society of Civil Engineers’ nationwide infrastructure report card. The most recent report, in 2009, gave the nation’s infrastructure a D.

33 replies on “From roads to dams, civil engineers grade Maine’s infrastructure a C-”

  1. Sorry people, we in the ‘tea-party’ Republican movement say NO to safe infrastructure. F—’em, they can buy water in a bottle. Let the parents home school their own children, they’ll be less people on the bridges and roads then. People like me and Mitt Romney didn’t get rich giving a d-mn about this nation and it’s people.

    You want a crumbling infrastructure repair that creates jobs, good luck, cause President Obama won’t be able to touch my off-shore accounts. I’ve worked hard for every penny I ever made, even if at times it was more underhanded then from a righteous endeavor.

    And I might add as Mitt supports the Mormon church with ‘tax-deductible’ donations, I’ve stood on street corners in the past at holiday seasons passing out ‘tax-deductible’ $5.00 bills and 10% off coupons at one of my many stores.

    1. As a Tea Party Democratic I feel everything should be budgeted, No Bonds for any reason.. You Capt. are no tea party repub.. you try to distort common sense.

    2. “President Obama won’t be able to touch my off-shore accounts. I’ve worked hard for every penny I ever made”.

      Sounds like you are doing very well, keep up the good work!

        1. No I am not crooked, I keep all my hard earned money here so
          when Obama needs it to give away it will be available.

          1. Well, if you want to know the truth, I have pledge to the President to bring some jobs back to the States. With a fair wage and yes benefits.

            My shareholders will take a little hit, but still make out like bandits. (and yes as well I’m doing it to protect myself cause by law he can come after everything)

    3. Actually, if you think this through and I know that is difficult for you, you will note that because democrats chose to increase welfare spending by about 700% over 40 years of dictatorial rule, there is no money left for infrastructure. I guess we need a huge tax increase in Maine. Trouble is, there are so few of us left in Maine that actually pay income tax.

    1. Try billionaire.. (yeah I’m arrogant and just as full of b.s. as any super wealthy person is) How wealthy you might wonder, in my business Donald Trump would only be an errand boy to Warren Buffet or Bill Gates.

  2. Roads and schools are falling apart, but — hey — we have that new “open for business” sign, so we’re all set, right?

    1. It wasn’t the Reps. that let this happen over the last sixteen or
      more years. Or have you forgotten the Dems. had been running the show.

      1. But, but, but…..what about the railroad and ferry bond money that your beloved governor refuses to release? Remember? those passed in 2009, a year before he was elected? Because it’s “fiscally irresponsible”? No improvement to infrastructure bond has ever been labelled as fiscally irresponsible by one person overruling the electorate. ,…..until “The Agitator” took office, how’s he working for you on infrastructure improvement? I don’t know of a politician who in some way or another agrees that infrastructure is one of the most solid investments a state can make, again, until now.

        1. Did someone bait & switch the money here? I didn’t know the bond money for railroads was now earmarked for Highways and bridges and Dams. Those sneaky Republicans!!!

          1. If you read the article, railroads received a “D” rating. Railroads are part of infrastructure. Do you think highways and bridges are the only components of infrastructure? Oh my…….

        2. For you to believe that the unissued railroad bonds created this mess is a joke and I hope that you meant it as such.

          1. What I’m referring are solutions. He can rant and rave, blame democrats for not supporting infrastructure programs and you and I know that that simply isn’t the truth. What I’m concerned about is beginning to look towards solutions; going forward. LePage? Who knows what he is thinking, but it’s certainly not infrastructure. For you to be interested on what created this mess, and not seeing or look for solutions to address it, is the joke.

          2. “For you to be interested on what created this mess, and not seeing or look for solutions to address it, is the joke.”

            I agree – you now see what its been like for 12 years of “Its Bush’s fault” baloney. Where are and what are the reasonable proposed solutions instead of ranting about LePage?

          3. You don’t get it do you? Blame isn’t the solution. If you have somewhere to go and get a flat tire…..I suppose you would look for the cause of the flat. Instead of changing the tire and get to where you need to be?

            Hydro Quebec- 1980’s
            East West Highway- 1980’s
            Tidal Power 1990’s
            Railroads throughout both. (the trucker’s killed that one)
            Refusal to adopt Federal transportation rules
            Refusal of towns to develope comprehensive development plans (1980’s)

            These are but a few, there have been many, many opportunities to assist our infrastructure. Here’s a new one for ya……Don’t let the Turnpike keep all of their tolls and use some of the money in the recreational areas? How’s that?

  3. Not a very good ranking when people’s lives are put in danger from roads, bridges, railroads, etc. that are in very poor condition.
    Priorities! There is no minimizing the importance of good and safe infrastructure, Anyone who does….shame!

      1. For a state that touts tourism and recreation as much as Maine, a C minus isn’t something that one should be satisfied with.

  4. ““This report is a call to action to improve our quality of life here in Maine,” said Will Haskell, president of the Maine section of the American Society of Civil Engineers and vice president of Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers in Gray.” So true, civil engineers do improve their quality of life when they get more income from designing infrastructure.

  5. Funding infrastructure maintenance isn’t the sexiest thing to spend tax dollars on but it may be among the most important. Today’s maintenance delayed is tomorrow’s very expensive maintenance or replacement. It is a helluva lot cheaper to maintain (repair) a road or bridge than it is to rebuild it from scratch.

    Spending on infrastructure is like spending on education — we’re preparing for a future we can’t really see clearly but we know that safe roads and an educated populace are probably going to be useful.

  6. Infrastructure repairs and building are key during an economic down turn to put money into the economy, in order to be ready and as an incentive to businesses to stay and relocate to Maine when the economy turns around.

  7. Infrastructure is a pay me now or pay me later thing. We have been opting to pay later for quite a few years now. Looks like later is here. How did our ancestors manage to build all these roads and bridges in the first place? I’ll bet they didn’t spend half the budget for a project “studying” and “engineering” it. I’ll bet they bought concrete and asphalt with the money and got to work.

  8. It may be worse than “C-” after another winter. This is the result of “Cut, cut, cut” going back decades, And Guv Paul won’t even spend bond money voters have already approved. Infrastructure is *why* we have government, folks. Infrastructure and public safety.

  9. So, things haven’t gotten worse, and we are above the National average.
    Still, the posters here find reason for outrage, and another chance to hurl insults.

  10. Amazing. Yet another report that paints Maine poorly, yet no Le Page to snicker and condemn us for having poor roads and bridges.

    Wonder why?

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