Maine communities lost a chance to land $20 million from the federal transit system this year, apparently because the state’s grant application was incomplete.

State transportation officials said Tuesday that they are trying to figure out how the application for a State of Good Repair grant arrived in Washington by e-mail with a cover letter only.

None of the required supporting documents was received, and a Maine Department of Transportation official said she was unsure if the application was e-mailed without the documents attached or if the attachments were somehow stripped off during transmission.

Kat Beaudoin, who heads the MDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Systems Planning, said the state hasn’t come to any conclusions.

“We believe that we attached (the supporting documents), but we believe that somewhere in the transmission they got unattached or got lost,” she said. “I’m not sure we’ll ever know what happened.”

Beaudoin and other transportation officials met Tuesday to talk about the problem with Peter M. Rogoff, head of the Federal Transit Administration, who was in Portland for the day.

Beaudoin said Rogoff indicated that the only way Maine may end up with any grant money is if another state returns money – perhaps because local agencies fail to provide matching support. But Rogoff said he wasn’t sure if any returned money could be reallocated, Beaudoin said.

The transit administration awarded $776 million to 45 other states and the District of Columbia through the grant program.

The Metro bus system, which serves Portland, Westbrook and Falmouth, hoped to receive $5 million from Maine’s grant. That money, added to $1.3 million in local contributions requested from the three communities, would have paid for upgrades to the system’s maintenance garage in Portland and purchased as many as 13 new buses, said Dave Redlefsen, who heads the Metro system.

Metro has a fleet of 28 buses, including 12 that are 1996-97 vintage and were bought used, he said. Redlefsen noted that Metro is due to receive seven new buses next spring that were bought with economic stimulus money.

Had the grant money been awarded, “we would have had a relatively new fleet,” he said.

Redlefsen said none of the grant money would have gone toward the system’s operating budget, which is expected to be slightly more than $6 million next year. “It would have been nice to have it, but we’ll manage,” he said.

The rest of the $20 million sought by Maine would have gone to various communities and transit districts around the state to improve transportation programs.

Beaudoin, the state transportation official, said the grant application was sent this summer on the day it was due. The state never received confirmation that the application had arrived or any indication from the Federal Transit Administration that it was incomplete, she said.

The problem was discovered in September, after dozens of other grants were announced and Maine officials contacted the administration to find out why the state was left out.

Beaudoin said some agencies send out electronic receipts indicating an application has been received on time and is being processed, but that’s not a uniform procedure.

Willy Ritch, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said Pingree invited Rogoff to Maine after learning about the problems with the grant application.

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]