By: Senator Susan M. Collins
In my travels throughout Maine, I’ve seen firsthand the positive effects of investing in our seaports, railroads, roads, and bridges to improve safety, boost our economy, and create and save much-needed jobs. As 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.
A key to meeting this goal is the TIGER grant program. Since the program’s inception in 2009, I have worked to secure more than $133 million for critical transportation investments throughout Maine, including bridges, seaports, and rail projects. Maine TIGER applications have been successful in every funding round.
This winning streak continued earlier this month with the announcement that the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) will receive more than $10.8 million in TIGER funding to replace three bridges in Piscataquis and Penobscot Counties that are structurally deficient and in serious need of repair. Local residents rely on these bridges, which connect them with adjacent communities and provide essential transportation links for loggers and visitors as well. This project will improve public safety and help to create and support jobs in rural Maine.
The three bridges that will be replaced under MDOT’s “Penquis Region Rural Bridges Project,” are the Mattawamkeag Bridge on State Route 2, the Pleasant River Bridge in Milo, and the West Branch Bridge on State Route 11 over the West Branch of the Penobscot River. It is imperative that these bridges be replaced before they fall into complete disrepair, which would have negative effects on the region’s infrastructure and economy. In fact, MDOT calculates that, without these crucial bridges, detours would add from 12 to nearly 100 miles to one-way trips. This would have damaging consequences for area residents and for the forestry industry that drives the local economy.
I have worked each year to ensure that TIGER has been funded and have strongly advocated for the projects submitted by MDOT. Among the Maine projects that have received TIGER funding are the replacement 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 program has made a significant difference in our state, providing funding for vital projects across Maine that might otherwise never have been built.
The local projects produce benefits that are 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 these 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.
Whether in a small town or a major hub of commerce, projects such as these 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 Maine’s transportation infrastructure.