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 and save much-needed jobs. As the Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee in the Senate, one of my highest priorities has been to improve our nation’s infrastructure and to ensure that Maine’s needs are addressed.
I recently secured grant funding for two important projects in Maine—one for a rural island bridge, the other for our busiest seaport—which will enhance the safety and efficiency of our state’s transportation network and create and sustain good-paying jobs.
These grants will allow construction to begin on the replacement of the Beals Island Bridge and to improve the infrastructure at the Port of Portland. The projects are expected to directly generate approximately 475 construction jobs, but the positive effects will be felt throughout our state. In addition to those in construction fields, many other workers are employed by companies that provide products and services to support the projects, including steel, concrete, trucking, fuel, meals, and lodging. Moreover, these transportation projects will make it easier for Mainers traveling to jobs and help goods from Maine businesses reach the market. Whether directly or indirectly, these infrastructure improvements will support families and communities.
The Beals Island Bridge is the only crossing that connects the island and town of Beals with the mainland at Jonesport, handling roughly 2,000 vehicles each day. Nearly 60 years old, the narrow bridge has been deemed structurally deficient and in need of replacement. The award of $10.5 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation through the successful Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program will allow the Maine Department of Transportation to move forward with the $21.7 million project to increase public safety and connectivity between the island and the mainland.
The TIGER program 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. I have been able to successfully secure more than $122 million through the TIGER program for key highway, bridge, port, and rail projects throughout Maine, including the replacements of bridges in Kittery, Dresden-Richmond, and Rumford, as well as the breakwater in Eastport and improvements in all three of Maine’s major ports in Portland, Searsport, and Eastport. A TIGER grant also helped save freight rail service in Northern Maine. The TIGER grant program has made a significant difference in our state, providing funding for vital projects across Maine that might otherwise never have been built.
A separate $7.7 million grant through the FASTLANE program will help fund improvements at the Port of Portland and will employ about 200 construction workers, increase competitiveness for Maine businesses, and provide an economic boost and job opportunities throughout our state. Specific projects at the Port of Portland will consist of removing an existing maintenance facility, installing a new mobile harbor crane and other cargo handling equipment, constructing a highway and rail crossing upgrade, and building a terminal operations and maintenance center.
The Port of Portland, the busiest seaport in Maine, is used daily by businesses and customers across Maine, including L.L. Bean, Poland Spring water, Aroostook potato growers, and Bristol Seafood. Currently, much cargo is offloaded at Canadian ports and transported to the United States via truck. By addressing the capacity and infrastructure needs at the Port of Portland, the project will improve freight mobility and relieve highway congestion between Portland and Canadian ports. Improvements for the railroads at the port and the rail line serving the port will allow for expansion of intermodal service.
Whether in a small town or a major hub of commerce, projects such as these 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. Working with our state, our communities, and the private sector, I will continue to advocate for responsible investments to improve our nation’s aging infrastructure.