As I jounced and bounced my way into town, I found myself thinking about the state of our roads.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

It’s a good idea to be thinking about this while driving, because if your mind is on something else, anything else, you’re likely to come a cropper in a pothole large enough to house a small family. Or at least swallow a wheel.

It’s brutal.

In a way, it’s all part of living here with the climate we have. However, we have also been slacking off on caring for our infrastructure in recent years and it shows. Our roads are pretty bad.

Potholes are one thing, but back in March, an entire section of the Alexander Reed Road in Richmond washed away in a spring storm when a culvert collapsed. Like … gone. A massive section of road, gone.

Our bridges are even worse. Heck, just look at the Brunswick-Topsham Frank Wood Bridge, also known as “the green bridge.” Long known to be iffy, this major connector and carrier of traffic is now so bad it is posted as unsafe for school buses and ambulances. That’s crazy-scary.

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There is some hope on the horizon.

Maine voters last November approved a $100 million transportation bond, which included $85 million for work on highways and bridges, and a plan to transfer another $100 million to the Maine Department of Transportation from the state general fund is in the governor’s proposed supplemental budget.

What’s more, Maine is expecting $2.4 billion from President Biden’s infrastructure bill – a rare example of a federal measure that had large bipartisan support.

Even with these vast sums, though, there seems to be a tacit acknowledgment that the problem has become so big we are not expecting shiny, full solutions, but get-us-through patches. Disappointing.

This got me thinking about solutions being toyed with in other parts of the world.

India is trying something radical. Plastic waste, such as old water bottles, is being repurposed into paving materials. So far, it seems to be working. Large sections of highway are now constructed of the material, and despite monsoons, extreme heatwaves and harsh usage, the roads are devoid of the typical cracks and potholes on those same streets, while also making a sizable dent in the waste stream. Wow.

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We have a different climate, and the cost raises eyebrows. Plus there are folks who say it whitewashes the problem of creating the plastics in the first place, so maybe it’s not our solution. But it is something to take a closer look at, and I love the fact that people are trying things.

And in Denmark, according to a 2018 report from World Highways, the Danish government is installing large sections of “test highway” with an eco-friendly road surface that is designed to be more green and also cut CO2 emissions by improving car performance (they lost me a bit there), while remaining durable. I can’t wait to see the results.

These are but two of the exciting experiments happening in other parts of the globe that would be exciting to test out here. There are more. Even better than the specific trials is the mindset of innovation and a willingness to experiment. To risk failure in pursuit of new knowledge and a new solution.

I look forward to what these bold minds discover. I am eager to see these ideas come to our roads, too. Until then, here’s hoping we make it through another season with our alignment, both automotive and personal, more or less intact.

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