PORTLAND (AP) – Transportation planners from around the state gathered at City Hall on Tuesday to urge support of a borrowing proposal to fund highway improvements.

The Democratic-controlled Legislature is scheduled to take up the measure Thursday in a special session.

The Appropriations Committee last week endorsed the Democrats’ package, which totals $93.8 million. Republicans are offering an $88.2 million alternative.

The Democrats’ plan includes $60.8 million for transportation projects, $25.5 million for education and $7.5 million for environmental programs.

The GOP-backed version seeks to borrow $62.5 million for transportation, $17.5 million for education and $4.2 million for environmental projects.

Gov. John Baldacci, a Republican, has dropped his request of $75 million for transportation and is supporting the Democratic plan, Spokesman Lee Umphrey said.

The transportation officials said they want as much funding as possible to back up projects such as the Gorham bypass study and the construction of an auxiliary lane on part of I-295 in South Portland.

Officials from the state’s four Metropolitan Planning Organizations, which represent 35 municipalities, said failure to approve the transportation bonds would delay projects and threaten the state’s eligibility for $220 million in matching federal funds.

Rob Kenerson, director of the Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System, asked citizens to urge their legislators to support the higher bond’s approval. “We’re making a Band-Aid on a lot of these roads,” he said.

To be sent to voters, bonds must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.

Highways and bridges make up the largest share of the transportation bonds on the table. The rest would be divided among rail, port, harbor, transit and park-and-ride projects. Replacement of the Governor Curtis ferry serving Vinalhaven is also included.


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