Senator Collins Questions DOT Secretary on Key Funding for Maine Maritime Academy and Incident at Presque Isle Airport

Secretary Chao committed to working with Senator Collins to secure additional funding for the new training ship for Maine Maritime Academy

Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ opening statement.

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ opening statement.  Click HERE for the high-resolution video.

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A on Maine Maritime Academy.  Click HERE for the high-resolution video.

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A on Presque Isle International Airport.  Click HERE for the high-resolution video.


Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, held a hearing to review the fiscal year 2020 budget request for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). 


During the hearing, Senator Collins discussed her opposition to the lack of funding in the Administration’s budget proposal for training vessels at state maritime academies, including Maine Maritime Academy.  In each of the past two years, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) was awarded $300 million to design and construct identical training vessels for state maritime academies since building the same vessel is expected to achieve cost savings.  The FY 2020 budget request only includes $205 million for a different, smaller capacity training ship.  Massachusetts Maritime Academy received a new training vessel last year, while New York received one the year before. 


“This budget proposal would require MARAD to start from scratch in designing a brand new ship and would be detrimental to the training needs at Maine Maritime Academy, which is next in line for a replacement ship.  We followed MARAD’s guidelines exactly and funded New York first, Massachusetts last year, and Maine is scheduled for this year, but with a far smaller and inferior ship provided in this budget,” said Senator Collins.  “It simply doesn't make sense to change the size of the training vessel.  I would just ask again for your commitment to work with us in finding a path forward so that MARAD doesn't have to go back to the drawing board and spend an enormous amount of time and money in designing a whole new ship when, in fact, the appropriate metric is how many cadets in the academy need at-sea training.”


“Senator, I hope Maine knows what an advocate they have in you, because every time that we talk you're always advocating for your state, and in particular, the latest example is with this school ship,” responded Secretary Chao.  “Your arguments and the points that you made are very good ones, and I look forward to working with you on it.”


Senator Collins also discussed the airplane incident that occurred at Presque Isle International Airport on March 4, 2019. 


“This was a very disturbing incident, and we very much appreciated the prompt report that the National Transportation Safety Board did,” said Senator Collins.  “My question is: what happens after a report like this?  What happens next to ensure that this kind of preventable accident doesn’t happen again?”


“The FAA is supposedly working with the airport on investments within both systems, and they're supposed to be working with the airport to take advantage of both types of technology,” responded Secretary Chao.  “Your question is a good one.  I will go and see, but they're supposed to be working with the airport.”


Senator Collins also thanked Secretary Chao for her advocacy to include funding for the BUILD program, a competitive grant program that provides funding for state and local transportation projects.  As Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Collins has helped Maine secure over $160 million in BUILD grants, with successful applications in each round of funding.


This was the first hearing since the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash and the grounding of the 737-MAX aircrafts by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  The Committee questioned Secretary Chao on the FAA’s relationship with Boeing and the government’s role in ensuring the safety of the traveling public.


Yesterday, Senators Collins and Reed sent a letter calling on the U.S. DOT Inspector General to audit the certification process for this aircraft.  Following the Senators’ push, the IG initiated their audit today.