Question 4 will fix crumbling transportation network, save lives

Maine’s roads badly need work. On Tuesday, voters have the chance to make a small dent in our road needs. Question 4 will make $41 million available to repair roads and bridges and $10.5 million for other transportation needs. Together this funding will leverage an additional $105 million in federal and other public and private funds.

A recent national transportation report identifies $1.5 billion worth of repairs needed for Maine’s highways and bridges and attributes an annual 56 highway-related deaths and $301 million in personal car repairs (that’s $299 for each of us every year) to Maine’s deteriorating road infrastructure. While only a drop in the bucket, Question 4 will nonetheless save money and lives.

Yet, these road and bridge improvements may be jeopardized by the rumor mill. The highway bond includes $3 million for dredging and $2 million for material handling equipment at the Mack Point cargo port in Searsport. Some are suggesting  that a proposed liquid propane gas (LPG) facility is actually behind these port improvements. The port improvements are intended to support the hundreds of existing cargo ships that currently use the Mack Point port operation each year importing everything from
heating oil to paper-making chemicals and helping to fuel the economy of central Maine. In fact, transportation planners began engineering and permitting for the dredging work more than five years ago, before the LPG tank proposal was conceived.

I am sympathetic to the environmental and safety concerns around the proposed commercial-sized propane gas tank. The proposed improvements will make it safer for the five million barrels of liquid cargo that passes through the port each year now.

The November 6 vote on the highway bond is not an up/down vote on a LPG facility at Mack Point. It is a vote to make Maine’s transportation infrastructure–from highways to busing, to air- and seaports–safer. Our roads are in dangerous condition and we cannot afford to lose these funds due to misunderstanding and misinformation.