Keep the Work Off the Road
Civil engineering is a broad field dealing with the planning, design, construction, maintenance and management of infrastructure networks and the resulting safety of the public. Civil engineering includes power plants, electrical distribution, bridges, roads, railways, airports, structures, retaining walls, foundations, water supply & distribution, irrigation, sewer, flood control, waste management, transportation and the protection of the natural environment. The maintenance and improvement of Maine’s infrastructure is vital to our economy, health, safety, security, and the environment. Decisions about infrastructure the public uses, which we all pay for through user fees and taxes, as well as private investments, need to be made based on long-term comprehensive planning, with sustainable and reliable funding sources.
As with the national Report Cards produced by ASCE, the purpose of this state Report Card is to raise public awareness of the importance of modern and well-maintained infrastructure. Our infrastructure cannot be taken for granted and requires on-going maintenance and continuous planning. We believe discussion of the issues detailed in this Report Card will lead to a greater understanding of the current and future needs of our state, prompting decision makers in our communities, the state legislature, and our congressional delegation to formulate policies and provide the necessary funding to address our infrastructure needs.
The 2016 Report Card on Maine’s Infrastructure gave the state an overall grade of C-. Maine ASCE analyzed the following fundamental components of each infrastructure area: Existing Conditions, Capacity, Operations & Maintenance, Innovation & Resiliency, Public Safety, and Funding/Investment needs. Of the 14 categories, only two infrastructure categories are in good condition (B-), eight categories ranged in the fair to mediocre range (C+, C or C-), and four categories were considered to be in poor condition (D+ or D). Of more concern are the 8 areas that are showing a decline. The good news is there are solutions to all these challenges, and we can raise Maine’s infrastructure grades.
Since 2012, there has been no federal funding or fee increases for Maine’s Airports. Concurrently, budget shortfalls in many communities, coupled with a doubling of the local match in 2012 from 2.5% to 5% have left many airport sponsors short of their share of project funding. The recently improving economy and increase in construction costs have exacerbated the situation by eroding the value (dollars allocated) of the federal program in relation to inflation. An additional concern since 2012 is the sharp increase in airspace obstructions precluding safe access to some airports by planes during times of inclement weather and nighttime operations. It should be noted, however, that even in the face of restrictive funding levels, meaningful terminal expansions and facility improvements have taken place at many of our airports throughout the state of Maine.
Maine’s highway system includes a total of 3,714 bridges, 58% of which are more than 50 years old. Historic funding levels have not been sufficient to replace bridges before they exceed design life and one out of every seven Maine bridges (14.8%) is structurally deficient. Accordingly, MaineDOT’s current 3-year work plan includes an increased emphasis on bridge maintenance and preservation projects. The area of structurally deficient bridges in Maine has been declining gradually over the past several years. However, achieving long term, sustained improvements necessitates a comprehensive strategy that identifies potential financing methods and investment requirements to meet the additional $33 million annual funding need projected by MaineDOT.
Maine has over 1,000 dams registered with the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). Of these, 191 are classified as dams of significant- and high-hazard potential, in which failure would result in considerable damages or loss of life. Approximately half of those are in fair or unsatisfactory condition and Maine’s compliance with the Association of Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) Model Dam Safety Program is well below the national average. Maine also has five federally-supported levees with an average rating of “minimally acceptable.” Lack of comprehensive planning and underfunded dam and levee safety programs add to the concern. However, options for increasing funding exist; consideration of environmental and social benefits is improving decision making; and the Model Dam Safety Program can be leveraged to develop funding and legislative action.
An estimated two-thirds of Maine residents are served by 151 public community drinking water systems. Significant investments in water treatment systems, including installation of disinfection with ultra-violet light and ozone has enhanced water quality from these water systems. However, aging underground transmission lines remain a serious issue for Maine’s water utilities with replacement cycles exceeding the 100-year target by 10-50 years, depending on the system. This is largely due to project funding needs exceeding available federal and state funding. While there has been improvement in treatment, storage, and security issues, approximately $59 million per year is needed over the next 20 years for infrastructure projects – which equates to an annual $22 million shortfall in funding need.
Maine schools face an estimated $914 million capital funding gap, a much lower estimate then previously reported, and after five years of funding well below the allowable debt ceiling, 14 major projects are in the planning or construction process, including two with vocational components. Systems for standardization and oversight for major capital projects have improved since 2012. The new projects, especially the vocational schools, include more expensive components. School consolidation and construction of some regional schools have resulted in closure of some deficient schools though many temporary classrooms and facilities in poor condition remain in use. The student population is approximately 183,000 pupils and continues to drop, by 2.7% since the 2012 report.
Maine remains a net exporter of electricity generated primarily by a diverse mix of hydro, natural gas, wind, and other renewables. Maine produces more electricity from renewable energy than any other state east of the Mississippi River. Much of Maine’s electric transmission infrastructure is 30 to 40 years old, and requires further investment – like the $1.5 billion Maine Power Reliability Program – to ensure reliable, resilient, and cost-effective delivery of electricity. In June 2016, Maine had the lowest average retail electricity price to all use sectors of the New England states, but was 11th highest in the country and 18% higher than the national average
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) administer six programs that oversee contaminated site investigation, remediation, and redevelopment, including the EPA’s Superfund Program. As of August 2016, Maine has 16 sites on the Superfund’s National Priority List (NPL). Additionally, DEP maintains an on-going listing of sites that have required remediation in all the programs overseen by DEP and/or EPA. That listing has 155 active sites in need of resources, the majority of which are sites contaminated by fuel oil and kerosene and former municipal landfills that were closed (capped) but that require remediation of contamination related to past landfilling activities. Federal and state policies and programs to investigate, remediate, and redevelop sites have been adequate. Formulas for funding have improved, however, available funds are not enough to cover the cost of all sites requiring clean-up.
Maine’s 49 state parks and historic sites are a key contributor to tourism – Maine’s number one industry – and outdoor recreation generates $382 million in tax revenue and 65,000 jobs. Recent technology initiatives, including the ability to view campsites before booking, have improved the park user’s experience. However, there has been little capital investment made in recent years to help reduce a $30 million maintenance backlog, enhance the level of service, and fully realize the economic potential of the state park system. A continued decline in condition is anticipated absent additional investment in the system’s infrastructure. If this trend continues visitor experiences will diminish in quality and Maine will ultimately suffer a lost economic opportunity.
Maine’s seaports are in good condition with more than $80 million in State and Federal funds invested over the last eight years. Projected growth will require an additional $120 million for necessary investments in areas of industrial infrastructure, intermodal connections, cruise ship terminals, and municipal fishing and recreational facilities. The Federal Maritime Commission projects an annual rate of growth around 5% for containerized shipments to East Coast ports; the marine route from Portland, ME to NY/NJ was included in America’s Marine Highway Program; and cruise ship calls increased 6% in 2016. Accordingly, Maine should update its Three Port Strategy originally developed in the early 1980s to reflect recent changes to its industrial terminals and the emergence of new and developing markets
Maine has 1,119 miles of active railroad, and recent capital projects, most of which are joint initiatives with private railroads, include track repairs, customer rail sidings, and interchange improvements. The largest rail customers in Maine are the pulp and paper and lumber industries. A full time rail inspector has been added since the 2013 Lac Megantic, Quebec, accident. Although railroads in Maine are not capacity-constrained by volume, sections of active track will not support 286,000-pound rail cars, the standard with Class I railroads. Improvement projects are underway, including a federal TIGER grant, which will help increase system usage and ensure the Maine railroad network remains an efficient and effective means of passenger and freight transportation.
Maine roads are the most used mode of transportation in the state, but Maine has the lowest funding per mile of the six New England states and a projected $68 million annual funding gap. This evaluation shows that due to the funding shortfall, combined with deteriorating roadway conditions and increasing traffic volumes, Maine’s roads are not meeting the customer service level goals set forth by the state legislature. Consequently, Maine motorists spend an extra $1 billion per year in vehicle operating costs, congestion delays, and crashes. To address these deficiencies, Maine must continue to maximize existing revenue streams as well as find additional funding sources
In 2014, Mainers collectively disposed of 2.8 million tons of total solid waste, including an average of 1,140 pounds of household waste (or municipal solid waste) per person – lower than most northeastern states. Waste disposal rates have fluctuated over the past ten years with the annual solid waste tonnage in 2014 returning to the disposal rate of 2008. Increasing disposal rates, facility closures, and the creation of no new landfill capacity in recent years lends uncertainty to current analysis that indicates that capacity exists to meet disposal needs over the next two decades. Recent efforts to manage food and yard waste disposal have seen positive results, but at 36% in 2014, MSW recycling remains below the state-established goal of 50%. Continued promotion of recycling and reduction, along with changes in policies, long term planning, and investment, are necessary to ensure that usable disposal capacity remains for the long term.
In 2015, more than 7.4 million passengers used Maine’s transit systems, an increase of 9.2% since 2012. Maine has 21 rural and small urban transportation systems that fall into three categories: regional transportation, fixed route transit, and tourist industry transit. Only 38% of the 414 transit vehicles MaineDOT is responsible for are in good condition and according to the MaineDOT’s Connecting Maine report, passenger transportation will be competing with funding shortfalls for the next 10 years. Simultaneously, Maine’s aging population will increase demand on the public transit system. Maine must therefore identify new and sustainable funding sources to meet needs and provide residents with an adequate transportation system.
Maine communities face challenges with their aging collection systems, particularly systems that get overwhelmed with stormwater and lead to combined sewer overflow (CSO). According to the Maine 2012 Clean Water Needs Survey, CSO abatement represents the largest obligation of Maine’s estimated $1 billion wastewater infrastructure need. Most communities do not have user rates and fees that are adequate to self-fund their capital needs causing reliance on federal and state loan and grant funding that historically have not been adequate to cover the known needs in the state. This adversely affects public health and the environment. Wastewater infrastructure has two primary categories: collection systems, which collect waste from homes and businesses and transfer it to the second category, the treatment facility. Maine has 162 publicly owned treatment facilities – some facilities have had little or no major upgrades.
A: EXCEPTIONAL, B: GOOD, C: MEDIOCRE, D: POOR, F: FAILING
Each category was evaluated on the basis of capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation
35 public-use airports
352 (14.40%) of the 2,450 bridges are structurally deficient
$3,164,931 spent on state bridge capital projects in 2013
Dams with EAPS
100% of the state regulated dams have an Emergency Action Plan
30 high hazard dams
$7.7 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years
151.3 Trillion BTU of renewable energy every year, ranking it 24th
13 sites on the National Priorities List
70 miles of inland waterways, ranking it 37th
2 miles of levees
12 million short tons of cargo in 2012, ranking it 33rd nationally
$34.5 million of unmet needs for its parks system
1,116 miles of freight railroads across the state, ranking 40th nationally
22,911 miles of Public Roads, with 21% in poor condition
$460 per motorist per year in costs from driving on roads in need of repair
$304 million gap in in estimated school capital expenditures
6,623,035 annual unlinked passenger trips via transit systems including bus, transit, and commuter trains
$970 million in wastewater infrastructure needs over the next 20 years
November 08, 2017
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September 02, 2015
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Peter S. Merfeld, P.E., M.ASCE is a member of the Maine Section. He has exhibited leadership experience as section president, Maine Report Card chair, and...
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