Maine Governor approves $85m infra bond bill

Through two general infrastructure bond offerings, state legislators hope to strengthen Maine's struggling construction sector.

Governor Paul R. LePage of Maine signed new legislation last Wednesday authorising two general fund bond issues to total $85 million to improve highways, bridges and multimodal transportation facilities.

“This critical investment of $85 million into Maine's transportation system will assure thousands of contractors and construction workers with long-term job security and continuing paychecks, and in turn will strengthen Maine's infrastructure and economy,” LePage said. “This bond is critical for the state to deliver on its current Work Plan commitments, which keep our transportation system strong.” 

Of the bonds issued, $68 million would be utilised for the construction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and to bolster the state's municipal finance initiative, and $17 million would be divided between maritime projects, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian trails.

The proceeds would be used to match roughly $121.5 million in federal funds and other existing transportation funding commitments.  

Supporters of infrastructure development in Maine say the allotment is not sufficient to meet the state's real needs. According to the Portland Press Herald, state business leaders had been pushing for approval of as much as $175 million in bond issues to support infrastructure projects.

As per a report issued in May by national transportation research group TRIP, Maine's transportation infrastructure is currently rated as the eighth-worst in the country, with 26 percent of rural pavement found to be in poor condition and 15 percent of rural bridges reported as structurally deficient. 

The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Maine reported late last month that, according to data gathered by their national counterpart, Maine now ranks 48th in the country in terms of construction jobs growth, with 700 fewer construction hires over the reporting period than during the previous year. 

Matthew Marks, chief executive of Maine's AGC, told the Press Herald that the state would need at least $140 million annually to keep up with its infrastructure needs. Other business leaders have said that once allotments for shortfalls on 2015 construction projects that meet bond criteria are accounted for, only $45 million would be left for new-start projects in 2016.

“We just seem to be falling further and further behind in infrastructure investment,” Marks said.

In November, Maine residents will have the final say on the matter when the bond measure appears on the ballot.