By: Sen. Susan M. Collins
With its marvelous parade, great food, fun, and friendships, Eastport is known for its memorable Fourth of July celebrations. The dedication of the new Breakwater in America’s easternmost city made the 2017 celebration truly unforgettable.
Since it was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1962, the Eastport Breakwater has been a vital facility. The success achieved there in cargo shipping strengthened Maine’s connection to the world and laid the foundation for the Estes Head Cargo Terminal. This necessary barrier protects Eastport’s inner harbor and promotes economic development and job growth in the region through its support of commercial fishermen, recreational boaters, and others who rely on the structure. As the base for both the United States Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection, the Breakwater plays a key role in maritime safety and national security.
The original Breakwater, called “The Million Dollar Pier,” performed valuable service long past its expected 20-year lifespan, but time, tides, and weather took a toll on the steel structure. In early 2013, the Eastport Port Authority met with stakeholders to develop a plan to secure federal and state funding to rebuild the deteriorating facility.
Later that year, I was successful in securing a $6 million federal grant for the Port of Eastport to help restore the Breakwater. The National Infrastructure Investment Grant Program, also known as TIGER, was established in 2009 to provide federal assistance for vital transportation projects. Since its inception, I have worked each year to ensure that the program has been funded and have strongly advocated for the projects submitted by the Maine Department of Transportation. During the program’s eight years of operation, I have been able to successfully secure more than $122 million for key transportation investments throughout Maine, including bridges, seaports, and rail projects.
Along with the $6 million TIGER grant, the Maine Department of Transportation and the Port of Eastport contributed significant funding to renovate the Breakwater. Unfortunately, just one week after the project was put out to bid in November of 2014, the Breakwater suffered a catastrophic collapse, shutting it down and delaying construction.
The Eastport Port Authority, the City Council, and the Maine Department of Transportation worked together to rebuild this necessary structure. The new $15 million Breakwater, using composite materials more resistant to corrosion than steel, will serve the city, our State, and our nation for decades to come, and I was delighted to take part in the dedication ceremony.
One of my highest priorities as Chairman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee has been to improve our nation’s infrastructure and to ensure that Maine’s needs are met. In my travels throughout Maine, I’ve seen first-hand the positive effects of investing in our ports, railroads, and crumbling roads and bridges to improve safety, boost our economy, and create much-needed jobs, and I will continue to advocate for responsible investments to improve our nation’s aging infrastructure.
It is a privilege to join the Maine Department of Transportation and Maine communities in this important work. Whether in a small town or a major hub of commerce, these projects have the immediate benefit of keeping our skilled construction workers on the job. When complete, they help enhance safety, grow the economy, and create opportunity. Improving transportation in Maine requires a strong partnership at the federal, state, and local levels, the very kind of partnership that resulted in the new Eastport Breakwater.