AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – Maine motorists should see plenty of road construction this season thanks to nearly $131 million in federal stimulus money that the state has received and committed for highways and bridges.

But the one-time infusion won’t solve the state’s longer-term funding woes.

Dozens of federally funded jobs throughout the state would create more than 3,500 jobs directly or indirectly related to the projects, according to Federal Highway Administration formula. It comes at a time state lawmakers are worried about long-term funding shortages due to declining state revenues and increased demands for improvements.

“It’s very welcome, this one-time infusion of capital money,” state Department of Transportation spokesman Herbert Thomson said Wednesday. With the stimulus money, “this is a pretty busy construction season,” Thomson said.

MaineDOT says 40 percent of its scheduled maintenance projects – mostly repaving with less than an inch of new blacktop – have been canceled this year. And all of next year’s repaving work could be sidetracked unless new funding is found.

The Legislature’s Transportation Committee is trying to find a way to bolster funding over the long term. The panel discussed a variety of ideas Tuesday, from increased fuel taxes to reshuffling DOT funds and borrowing. It plans to meet again Aug. 11 in hopes of sending a proposal to lawmakers during next year’s session.

The one-time funding from the federal stimulus package is supporting more substantial capital projects that involve tearing up existing highways, re-grading and repaving. The largest and perhaps most visible of those projects is the $35 million reconstruction of 24 miles of Interstate 295 from Topsham to Gardiner.

Federal regulations bar states from using stimulus money for lighter, maintenance-only repaving projects.

The Maine Better Transportation Association, a highway and transit lobbying group, said it’s grateful for the stimulus money, but it will not solve the state’s long-term highway funding problems.

“I think it was really an important boost,” said MBTA Executive Director Maria Fuentes.

“This is really a tough year for a lot of out members, but it would have been worse if it wasn’t for the stimulus. If you set that aside, it would have been a devastating year,” Fuentes said.

Also helping is millions of dollars in revenue from voter-authorized bonds for roads and bridges, she said.

The federal Department of Transportation lists about 70 Maine projects receiving stimulus money. They’re mostly resurfacing projects but also include some bridge and culvert repairs and replacements and bicycle-pedestrian trails.

Maine DOT’s stimulus Web site lists 15 projects as out to bid, 21 in which contracts have been awarded, 34 under way and two completed.


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