Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member and incoming Chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, spoke today at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Maine Kennebec bridge connecting Richmond and Dresden.
As the senior Republican on the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Collins successfully secured more than $14 million in federal funding to replace the bridge, $10.8 million of which came through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program. The TIGER funding was expected to pay for about half of the project’s cost.
Below is a transcript of Senator Collins’ remarks:
"Thank you, Commissioner Bernhardt. Governor LePage, Mr. Yellowbear, Mr. Nadeau, Mr. Parker, people of Richmond and Dresden, this is a great day for communities on both sides of the Kennebec River. It is wonderful to have students and town elders join together to celebrate a rich history and a bright future.
"For 83 years, the Maine Kennebec Bridge has been a critical link to the flow of commerce and people across this great river. At the time, the bridge’s innovative swing design not only allowed these two communities to be connected, but it kept the Kennebec open to navigation. This was especially important for the Coast Guard’s ice-breaking mission.
"The distinctive and historic bridge served this region well; however, when I inspected it almost exactly three years ago with Commissioner Bernhardt and local leaders, it became clear that the bridge had outlived its lifespan and did not meet current transportation standards. No amount of renovation could correct its serious flaws. In fact, it was rated as “structurally deficient.”
"As everyone who lives in this region knows, the narrow travel lanes made every crossing a challenge. Driving onto the bridge, we faced a large oncoming SUV; I still remember fearing that one or both of us would lose a side mirror. And it was evident that trucks had hit both the side and overhead trusses. Rust was everywhere.
"The Commissioner told me that replacing the bridge was an urgent priority. So I not only supported the State’s grant application, but also called then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to describe what I saw and urge his support.
"As the incoming Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, one of my highest priorities is to strengthen Maine’s transportation infrastructure. Safe and efficient infrastructure is a catalyst for economic growth, moving our products to market and our raw materials to factories. It is also essential for transporting people, including BIW workers, to their jobs. These are the reasons why I strongly supported more than $14 million in federal funding for this bridge.
"The TIGER program was established in 2009 to provide federal assistance for vital transportation projects, such as this one. I have worked hard to make sure that the program has been funded every year since it was first established. To date, Maine has received more than $90 million for highway, bridge, port, and rail projects through this program, which has been essential to rebuilding our infrastructure, getting our economy moving, and creating jobs.
"The TIGER program succeeds because it is a true partnership at the local, state, and federal levels. Commissioner Bernhardt and his team at MDOT, and town leaders in Richmond and Dresden, have been committed partners. Reed & Reed carried out the construction with a focus on quality and cost-effectiveness.
"The transportation needs around our nation are great, and the competition for TIGER grants is intense. I will continue to fight for Maine projects because they are so vital to our economy. Thank you and congratulations on this great accomplishment."