Maine’s roads, dams and bridges are in poor shape.

A new report issued Monday by the American Society of Civil Engineers handed a C- grade to the state’s infrastructure.

A team of professional engineers looked over 14 categories that included everything from airports to state parks to determine an overall grade, which isn’t going to land Maine on any honor rolls.

The state’s roads are especially bad, securing only a D in the new report card. Their poor condition costs the average Maine motorist $485 a year, the report found.

Dams, waste treatment plants and passenger transit facilities did only slightly better, each squeaking by with a D+.

The report’s overall grade of C- matched its performance in a 2012 report card by the same organization. But in eight of the 14 areas examined, Maine’s scores declined during the past four years.

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“It’s evident that our infrastructure isn’t being made the priority it deserves,” said Lynn Farrington, president of the Maine section of the civil engineers group.

Farrington said Monday her group doesn’t want “to paint a picture of doom and gloom” and admitted that it’s “not economically feasible” to pull in all As and Bs.

But, she said, the report can draw attention to the worst problems and showcase “a declining trend so that the limited available resources can be directed to the areas that truly need it most.”

“The key to making a measurable change truly is additional, reliable funding,” Farrington said.

The highest scores given to Maine were the B- grades for energy and for ports and waterways.

Roads earned the worst scores, though, because of a funding shortfall combined with “deteriorating roadway conditions and increasing traffic volumes.”

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Because the state’s nearly 23,000 miles of roads are not up to par, the report said, “Maine motorists spend an extra $1 billion per year in vehicle operating costs, congestion delays and crashes.”

It said the state has the lowest funding per mile of any New England state and is spending $68 million a year too little to make up the gap.

“Maine must restore investment in its highway infrastructure as a funding priority for the safety and economic well-being of the state’s residents and businesses,” the report said.

One area of improvement is in the state’s energy generation, transmission and distribution.

Though the report calls for more than $1 billion in new investment, it credits the state with upgrades since 2012 that raised its energy-related grade from a C+ to a B-.

It also found that Maine’s seaports “are in good condition with more than $80 million in state and federal funds invested over the last eight years.”

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But even there, the report said another $120 million is needed for a range of improvements that would help everything from attracting more cruise ships to handling seafood catches.

The state needs to find another $33 million a year to deal with its aging bridges, the report said, or more of the spans will become structurally deficient.

The civil engineers determined the state ought to be spending an additional $22 million annually during the next two decades to meet drinking water quality standards.

They pointed out a $30 million maintenance backlog for Maine’s state parks and historic sites, which are important to Maine’s booming tourism.

The report said that state airports haven’t seen any additional federal funding or fee hikes since 2012, jeopardizing their facilities over time.

It said that an aging population requires more passenger transit investment, too. But it also pointed to successful projects such as the new transportation center in Auburn that provides a hub connection for local buses and a location for regional service. Another transportation center is in the works at the Park & Ride lot at Exit 75 off the Maine Turnpike in Auburn, it said.

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The report sees potential growth for rail in the state, but also credits improvements that have been made.

It cited, for example, that St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad can ship double-stacked containers from its terminal in Auburn to Montreal, Canada, from which they can be sent to Vancouver, Chicago and beyond. “This bodes well for long-term rail freight growth in Auburn,” the study said.

In general, the report advocated hiking user fees and funding levels to ensure infrastructure is maintained. Keeping up with maintenance, it said, will help hold down longer-term costs.

It also calls for more tracking of assets through performance measures such as keeping tabs on the pavement conditions of roads.

The engineers also urged officials to invest in “innovation and new technology” that could assist in modernizing Maine’s infrastructure.

The 92-page report said it is intended “to raise public awareness of the importance of modern and well-maintained infrastructure.”

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Our goal in creating this report card is to help our local legislation prioritize our infrastructure and, in doing so, ensure that public health, safety, economic competitiveness and welfare are maintained” in the state, Farrington said.

I certainly do not envy our legislation,” Farrington said. “There is a great amount of need and a limited number of resources.

Maine grades per category were: airports (C+), bridges (C-), ports and waterways (B-), passenger transportation (D+), railroads (C), roads (D), contaminated site remediation (C-), dams and levees (D+), energy (B-), drinking water (C+), wastewater (D+), preK-12 schools (C), solid waste (C-), and state parks (C+).

Report Card for Maine’s Infrastructure by sunjournal on Scribd



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