GRAY — The $100 million transportation bond on the ballot Tuesday is something all sides of the political spectrum must support for passage.

That is because a “yes” vote on Question 3 promises to generate more than $29 million in investments in just our region’s transportation infrastructure and another $13 million for the Port of Portland and its working waterfront. That’s a lot of money and will enable additional federal matching money as well.

This investment is sorely needed to continue to address our aging transportation infrastructure, a significant amount of which was built back in the 1950s, during the Eisenhower administration.

While the Maine Department of Transportation is doing a great job with the limited resources it has, it cannot keep pace as gas tax revenues fall due to improved fuel efficiency of vehicles and increased construction costs. Passage of the bond would help fill this funding gap.

The benefit to our economy will be significant. Just the highway investments alone stand to create, or support, more than 500 jobs in our region – 1,400 total jobs statewide.

Ever since the recession hit, Maine families have suffered because there simply has not been enough work to go around. Few have suffered more than those in the construction industry, in which employment is still down by 22 percent from 2006 levels.

The jobs we are talking about as a result of this bond passing are good-paying jobs. The jobs we stand to gain from this bond would give families the ability to pay the essentials and have some left over to pay off a credit card, put money in a college fund, start saving again and even have some left to go out to dinner.

There are five critical highway projects and three bridge projects that are at risk if this bond does not pass – projects affecting Portland, Bridgton, Falmouth, Westbrook, South Portland, New Gloucester, Yarmouth, Freeport, Windham, Standish, Scarborough and Gray.

For many of us – commuters and those who rely on the transportation system to deliver or receive goods – a vote rejecting these investments would seriously impact our lives, and not in a good way. Delaying these needed infrastructure repairs will not make them go away, but only make them cost more later, because the bonding rates are currently at historic lows and construction costs increase.

Each one of these projects has merit, making travel safer and more convenient.

For example, the bond includes $4.08 million for the reconstruction of a three-mile stretch of River Road between Westbrook and Windham, a well-traveled route that local leaders have worked for more than a decade to fund.

The road has been likened to a carnival ride for all its bumps and dips. As amusing as that sounds, the cost of car repairs for commuters who regularly use River Road can be sobering.

  The bond also includes $1.24 million to construct a roundabout at a congested intersection on Route 25 in Standish and $1.5 million for pedestrian and bikeway improvements at Woodfords Corner in Portland.

These two projects may seem small, but they represent a big impact in safety. Many of Maine’s highways were built when there were fewer cars, and we constantly need to be updating key routes to make sure our roads can safely handle increasing traffic from not just cars, but pedestrians and cyclists, as well.

  Then there are the projects of enormous economic consequence for Maine, including improvements to the International Marine Terminal in Portland to support and hopefully expand on the international shipping connection made earlier this year when Icelandic shipper Eimskip moved its North American operations to Portland.

The regularly scheduled ships carrying freight to and from European ports have opened up new opportunities for Maine companies, marketing everything from frozen French fries and blueberries, to gas stoves and pleasure boats. Experts believe that with the targeted investments included in this bond, we can open up even more opportunity for Maine businesses.

The fact is Maine’s transportation system serves as a lifeline to our region’s future. A “yes” on Question 3 is how we get there. You don’t need a map, but you do need to vote. Please make the effort to make a trip to the polls on Nov. 5 for this all-important vote.

— Special to the Press Herald

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