New Report Identifies Maine’s Top 50 Transportation Challenges And Needed Fixes, Including Deteriorated And Congested Roadways, Deficient Bridges And Needed Safety Improvements
Deficient roads, highways and bridges in Maine are posing mounting challenges to the state’s residents, visitors and businesses and addressing these challenges will require numerous projects to reconstruct highways, repair and replace bridges improve safety features and improve access on the state’s transportation system. This is according to a new report released recently by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research organization.
The report, “Maine’s Top 50 Transportation Challenges and the Improvements Needed to Address Them,” identifies and ranks the state’s top 50 transportation challenges. Those transportation challenges include 12 sections of major roads or highways that need significant repairs or reconstruction; 19 major bridges in the state that have significant deficiencies and need to be rebuilt or reconstructed; an expansion of a marine terminal; and 18 sections of the state’s transportation system that need improvements to address multiple challenges by improving safety, increasing access or improving road or bridge conditions. The report also offers solutions for fixing each of the transportation challenges.
The top transportation challenges in the state, as identified by the TRIP report, are as follows. Additional details for all 50 transportation challenges can be found in the report’s Appendix.
Maine’s extensive system of roads, highways and bridges provides the state’s residents, visitors and businesses with a high level of mobility. As the backbone of the Pine Tree State’s economy, Maine’s surface transportation system plays a vital role in the state’s economic well-being, and is an integral part of what makes Maine an attractive place to live, work, visit and do business.
However, increasing roadway and bridge deterioration, traffic safety concerns, and growing congestion threaten to stifle economic growth and negatively impact the quality of life of the state’s 1.3 million residents. Due to insufficient transportation funding at the federal, state and local level, Maine faces numerous challenges in providing a road, highway and bridge network that is smooth, well-maintained, as safe as possible, and that affords a level of mobility capable of supporting the state’s economic goals
As Maine looks to build and maintain a thriving and diverse economy, it will need to modernize its transportation system by improving the physical condition of its roads, highways and bridges, and enhancing the system’s ability to provide efficient, safe and reliable mobility to the state’s residents, visitors and businesses. Making needed improvements to Maine’s roads, highways and bridges will provide a significant boost to the state’s economy by stimulating short and long-term economic growth.
Numerous segments of Maine’s transportation system have significant deterioration, are congested or crowded, lack some desirable safety features, and do not have adequate capacity to provide reliable mobility, creating challenges for Maine’s residents, visitors, businesses and state and local governments. This report looks at the condition and use of Maine’s system of roads, highways and bridges and provides information on the state’s top 50 transportation challenges and the improvements needed to address these challenges.
Deficient roads, highways and bridges, and crowded or congested routes in Maine are posing mounting challenges to the state’s residents, visitors and businesses in the form of lost time, increased vehicle operating costs and the financial burden of making needed transportation improvements.
- Maine’s top 50 transportation challenges as ranked by TRIP include: Twelve sections of major roads or highways that need significant repairs or reconstruction, 19 major bridges in the state that have significant deficiencies and need to be rebuilt or reconstructed; one improvement to a maritime facility, and 18 sections of the state’s transportation system that need improvements to address multiple challenges by improving safety, increasing access or improving road or bridge conditions.
- TRIP ranked Maine’s top transportation challenges by giving each segment or facility an overall score, based on a scale that included points for the following categories: current volume of daily travel or ridership; the challenge posed to the public based on the significance of the problem or deficiency; the importance of the route or facility to regional, interstate or international travel patterns; the importance of the route or facility to the regional economy; and, the cost to repair the deficiency.
- The following list details the top 10 transportation challenges in Maine. Further details about each challenge, as well as the full list of 50 challenges, can be found in the Appendix.
1. Needed Reconstruction of a portion of Route 3 in Bar Harbor. Addressing this challenge will require reconstructing 4.8 miles of Route 3 in Bar Harbor from approximately one half-mile west of Sand Point Road to Route 233. Estimated cost is $14 million. Route 3, the Acadia All-American Road, is perhaps the most significant highway in Maine for the tourism industry, providing access to Acadia National Park and over 1,000 beds for lodging. It carries approximately 10,317 vehicles per day. The current design and construction of the road lead to constant cracking at the margins. Safety will be greatly improved with better road geometrics, improved access and improved facilities for pedestrian and bicycle. This completes Route 3 improvement projects from the head of the island near Trenton to Bar Harbor.
2. Needed Replacement of Union Street Bridge in Bangor. Addressing this challenge will require replacing the Union Street Bridge over I-95 in Bangor. Estimated cost is $8.7 million. This is a critical bridge over I-95 on Union Street (Route 222), providing access to Bangor International Airport and the University of Maine at Bangor.
3. Needed Reconstruction of a portion of Route 302 in Portland area. Addressing this challenge will require reconstructing Route 302 from Stack Em Inn Road and extending west 5.19 miles. Estimated cost is $7.4 million. Route 302 is the major highway from Portland to Fryeburg, Maine and Conway, New Hampshire. It is a major route for commerce, supplying raw products and finished goods to market, as well as a significant commuter route for the labor force in the Greater Portland labor market. This route also serves the tourist rich areas of Fryeburg, Maine and Conway, New Hampshire. There are no practicable alternative routes without adding substantial time and cost.
4. Needed Replacement of Pine Point Crossing Bridge in Scarborough. Addressing this challenge will require replacing the Pine Point Crossing Bridge over the Pan Am Railroad. Estimated cost is $3.3 million. This bridge, located on Pine Point Road (Route 9), provides primary access to the Coastal Beaches surrounding the Cumberland-York County boundary. The bridge carries an important highway supporting tourism economy. Loss of the bridge will have negative economic impact especially to businesses along this section of Route 9. There are no practicable alternative routes without adding substantial time and cost.
5. Needed Replacement of Bar Mills Bridge from Buxton to Hollis. Addressing this challenge will require replacing the deteriorated Bar Mills Bridge over the Saco River at the Buxton – Hollis town line. Estimated cost is $8.3 million. The replacement of this bridge will improve safety and access and provide a more direct connection from Buxton to Hollis.
6. Needed Capacity Expansion of the International Marine Terminal (IMT). Addressing this challenge will require property acquisition to increase the capacity of the terminal, providing direct rail access to the terminal, and other infrastructure improvements. Estimated cost is $9 million. The International Marine Terminal (IMT) in Portland was selected by the Icelandic Steamship Company, Eimskip, to serve as their North American logistical hub, and only port of call in the US. They have been carrying freight to and from Portland since March 2013. Maine businesses will benefit from competitive access to important markets in Eastern Canada, Scandinavia and Northern Europe.
7. Needed Replacement of Durham Bridge between Durham and Lisbon. Addressing this challenge will require replacing the Durham Bridge (Route 9) over the Androscoggin River. Estimated cost is $6.8 million. This is an essential bridge over the Androscoggin River. Route 9 provides a major commuter route through high-population regions, from southern and western Kennebec through the rural areas of Cumberland County west of I-295. Route 9 is important as a commuter route for work force from rural areas to the service centers communities along its length from Gardiner to Portland. There are no practicable alternative routes without adding substantial time and cost.
8. Needed Reconstruction of a portion of River Road in Westbrook and Windham. Addressing this challenge will require reconstructing three miles of River Road from Westbrook town line to 0.17 miles south of the intersection of Chute and Depot Road. Estimated cost is $4.8 million. River Road, an important commuter route, holds significant regional importance as a “bypass” alternative to congestion on Route 302 between Portland and Windham. It is an important route for goods and services that support regional businesses. Alternative routes are available, but with increased travel times and cost.
9. Needed Reconstruction of a portion of Route 2 in Old Town and Milford. Addressing this challenge will require reconstructing 0.75 miles of Route 2 from Bradley Road to 0.29 miles north of Ferry Road. Estimated cost is $3.5 million. Route 2 provides a major non-interstate link from Houlton to Bangor and is a critical link from the forests of the region to the lumber and paper mills of the area, including those in Old Town, Bucksport and Lincoln.
10. Needed Construction of the Approach to the International Bridge at Fort Kent. Addressing this challenge will require constructing the approach associated with replacing the International Bridge on Route 1 in Aroostook. Estimated cost is $5.2 million. Route One connects the border crossings at Ft Kent, Madawaska, and Van Buren. This corridor, which carries approximately 8,100 vehicles per day, is the principal highway link to Route 11, Route 161, and to I-95 in Smyrna and Houlton. It is the transportation backbone of the natural resource based economy, serving as the gateway to the vast undeveloped forest of the “Maine Woods” and supplying raw products to paper and lumber mills throughout northern Maine. Route One also serves as a critical corridor for the logging, agricultural, winter sport and tourism industries. It also provides improved access to Canadian seaports.
Growth in population and vehicle travel has far outstripped the current capacity of Maine’s transportation system. The state’s population and economy will continue to grow in the future, bringing mounting challenges for the existing network of roads and bridges.
- From 1990 to 2012, Maine’s population increased by eight percent, from approximately 1.2 million to approximately 1.3 million.
- From 1990 to 2011, annual vehicle-miles-of-travel (VMT) in the state increased by 20 percent, from approximately 11.9 billion VMT to 14.2 billion VMT. Based on travel and population trends, TRIP estimates that vehicle travel in Maine will increase another 15 percent by 2030.
- Every year, $30.9 billion in goods are shipped from sites in Maine and another $41.1 billion in goods are shipped to sites in Maine, mostly by trucks. Eighty-one percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in Maine are carried by trucks and another 13 percent are carried by parcel, U.S. Postal Service or courier services, which use trucks for part of their deliveries.
Maine’s extensive transportation system has some road and bridge deficiencies, lacks some desirable safety features and experiences severe congestion in key areas, resulting in significant costs to the state’s motorists. Improvements to the condition and efficiency of the state’s transportation system will enhance quality of life, roadway safety and economic development.
- Maine’s population and economy will continue to grow in the future, bringing mounting challenges for the existing network of roads and bridges. The state will need to expand key roads, highways and bridges to increase mobility and ease traffic congestion, make needed road and bridge repairs, and improve roadway safety.
- Maine’s system of 22,874 miles of roads and 2,408 bridges carries 14.2 billion vehicle miles of travel annually.
- In 2011, nine percent of Maine’s major roads were in poor condition and an additional 24 percent were in mediocre condition.
- The pavement data in this report is provided by the Federal Highway Administration, based on data submitted annually by the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) on the condition of major state and locally maintained roads and highways in the state.
- Fifteen percent of Maine’s bridges are rated structurally deficient. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, school buses and emergency services vehicles.
- Eighteen percent of Maine’s bridges are rated as functionally obsolete. Bridges that are functionally obsolete no longer meet current highway design standards or are inadequate to accommodate current traffic levels, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.
- Maine’s urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, hampering commuting and commerce while reducing economic opportunities and quality of life in the state. Unless Maine’s transportation system is improved and enhanced, congestion will worsen dramatically in the coming years.
- Roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of traffic fatalities. There were 136 traffic fatalities in 2011 in Maine. A total of 794 people died on Maine’s highways from 2007 through 2011.
- Roadway features that impact safety include the number of lanes, lane widths, lighting, lane markings, rumble strips, shoulders, guard rails, other shielding devices, median barriers and intersection design.
- Maine’s traffic fatality rate of 0.95 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2011 was lower than the national average of 1.10.
- Where appropriate, highway improvements can reduce traffic fatalities and crashes while improving traffic flow to help relieve congestion. Such improvements include removing or shielding obstacles; adding or improving medians; improved lighting; adding rumble strips, wider lanes, wider and paved shoulders; upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes; and, better road markings and traffic signals.
Transportation projects that improve the efficiency, condition or safety of a highway provide significant economic benefits by reducing transportation delays and costs associated with a deficient transportation system. Some benefits of transportation improvements include the following.
- Improved business competitiveness due to reduced production and distribution costs as a result of increased travel speeds and fewer mobility barriers.
- Improvements in household welfare resulting from better access to higher-paying jobs, a wider selection of competitively priced consumer goods, additional housing and healthcare options, and improved mobility for residents without access to private vehicles.
- Gains in local, regional and state economies due to improved regional economic competitiveness, which stimulates population and job growth.
- Increased leisure/tourism and business travel resulting from the enhanced condition and reliability of a region’s transportation system.
- A reduction in economic losses from vehicle crashes, traffic congestion and vehicle maintenance costs associated with driving on deficient roads.
- The creation of both short-term and long-term jobs.
- Transportation projects that expand roadway or bridge capacity produce significant economic benefits by reducing congestion and improving access, thus speeding the flow of people and goods while reducing fuel consumption.
- Transportation projects that maintain and preserve existing transportation infrastructure also provide significant economic benefits by improving travel speeds, capacity, load-carry abilities and safety, and reducing operating costs for people and businesses. Such projects also extend the service life of a road, bridge or transit vehicle or facility, which saves money by either postponing or eliminating the need for more expensive future repairs.
- Highway accessibility was ranked the number one site selection factor in a 2011 survey of corporate executives by Area Development Magazine.
- A 2007 analysis by the Federal Highway Administration found that every $1 billion invested in highway construction would support approximately 27,800 jobs, including approximately 9,500 in the construction sector, approximately 4,300 jobs in industries supporting the construction sector, and approximately 14,000 other jobs induced in non-construction related sectors of the economy.
- The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs, and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.
Sources of data for this report include the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Maine Transportation Institute (TTI), and the U.S. Census Bureau. All data used in the report is the latest available.