Question 3 – Maine’s aged bridges need repair

October 30, 2013 by

You know the old line, “In Maine, driving is better in the winter because the potholes get filled with snow.” Mainers have always grumbled about road conditions.

It turns out we have something to complain about. Only it’s our bridges. Maine ranks 9th in the country for the worst bridge conditions. Of our 2,408 bridges, 356 or nearly 15% have structural defects.

When Mainers go the polls on November 5, they can vote to approve Question 3, $100 million in bonds for transportation improvements including $27 million to repair and replace defective bridges across the state.

Many of the most serious problems are in Maine’s most rural areas. Piscataquis County has the most deficient bridges (24%) with Washington (21.6%), Knox (21.3%), Hancock (206.6%), and Oxford (20.6%) counties following close behind. To learn which bridges near you are in need of repair, visit Transportation for America’s web site.

Percent of Deficient Bridges in Maine by County

Source: Transportation for America, The State of our Nation’s Bridges, 2013

Maine’s bridges are aging.  The average Maine bridge is 50 years old. The average deficient bridge is 69 years old. In 10 years, one out of four of our nation’s bridges will be 65 years or older. Every year that passes, these deteriorating spans become more costly to repair.

The good news is that Maine has improved its bridge condition standing since 2011, reducing our inventory of deficient bridges by 33. The bad news is, we have a long way to go.

State Rank among 50 states 2013 % deficient Total bridges Deficient bridges 2013 Deficient Bridges 2011  Change in deficient bridges over 2011 Percent change in deficient bridge total Average daily traffic on deficient bridges
Maine 9 14.8 2,408 356 389 -33 -8.5% better 924,423

Source: Transportation for America, The State of our Nation’s Bridges, 2013

Our bridges are our lifeline to national and international markets. Billions of dollars in goods are trucked over these deficient bridges every year. Almost 1 million people cross them every day.

The Maine Department of Transportation routinely monitors bridge conditions. It is not likely that a bridge will collapse. MDOT will close it before that happens, as experience shows with the Bucksport bridge in 2006. But without funding for ongoing repairs, Maine’s aged bridges will continue to deteriorate. At best the department will impose weight limits; at worse it will close unsafe bridges,  causing delays and costly, inconvient detours for commuters, truckers, emergency responders, and school buses.

Bridge

Maine needs sound, safe bridges, along with roads, rail lines, and cargo and airports to sustain its economy. Spending on transportation projects will also create jobs, boost the local and state economies, and enhance Maine commerce. Voting yes on Question 3 is an investment in Maine’s future.

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