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Thursday, Dec. 9 at 6:30 p.m.
Transportation: Where are we going?

Maine continues to be challenged by transportation issues, vexed by being a large state with a small population that is highly dependent on personal vehicles. In Greater Portland, public transit is growing but hampered by a lack of money: Maine spends about 86 cents per capita on public transit while Vermont, another large, rural state, spends about $12.12 per capita.

President Biden recently signed an infrastructure bill that could send millions to the state for transportation projects. Additionally, private developers such as those behind the Rock Row project in Westbrook and The Downs in Scarborough, have designed multi-use complexes with public transit hubs in their centers.

So there seems to be momentum to address transportation issues from both a public financing and a private market perspective. But does Maine have a unified vision with a coordinated, collaborative network of agencies to spend the anticipated money wisely?

Join Carol Coultas, Press Herald business projects editor, as she moderates an in-depth discussion with a panel of experts including Greg Jordan, executive director of METRO; Helen Donaldson, director of special projects in the city of Portland’s planning department; and Kristina Egan, executive director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments for an engaging discussion about policies and practicalities that affect the future of Maine transportation.

Here is some background information related to Maine’s transportation policies:

2013: U.S. PIRG publishes a state-by-state analysis showing the decline in driving. Maine achieved peak vehicles miles driven in 2003 and nine years later, saw a drop of 6.6 percent.

2016: Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System publishes a regional transportation plan that should guide decisions through December 2022. Destination 2040 contains recommendations for transportation funding, urban planning, demographics and safety.

March 2017: For data lovers, here’s a profile of Maine transportation, published by the federal Bureau of Transportation and based on 2000 Census data.

Fall 2017: The Muskie School of Public Service publishes a report called Greater Portland: Choices for Sustained Prosperity. One of its key findings is that prosperity is linked to a strong public transportation system, which supports higher density housing and good urban design

Winter 2017: The Muskie School of Public Service with Creative Portland, the Portland Regional Chamber and the Portland Society for Architecture publish “Growing Portland: Not Whether but How.” Among its key findings is that the city must expand its public transit options if it is to maintain growth.

December 2020: Maine gets a grade of C- from the American Society of Civil Engineers’ annual assessment of public infrastructure, including roads and bridges.

January 2021: GrowSmart Maine publishes a primer for citizens who want to become involved in planning and transportation choices for their communities.

January 2021: The state Department of Transportation releases a three-year plan prioritizing infrastructure projects, but acknowledges uncertainty caused by the pandemic will affect its ability to accomplish goals according to schedule. Read more.

March 2021: Greater Portland Council of Governments releases a 30-year plan to improve public transportation options in the region. Its four strategies are making transit easier, increasing connections, improving rapid transit options and embracing transit-friendly land use policies.

April 2021: Gov. Janet Mills directs state agencies to develop a clean transportation plan by the end of the year to address climate change. Read more.

July 2021: The Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center publishes a report on rural public transportation that compares Maine with states of similar demographics and presents best practices.

December 2021: One year in, Maine’s climate plan moving forward, fueled by unexpected federal windfall, published by the Portland Press Herald

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