ELECTION 2017: Maine voters to decide on $105 million in transportation bonds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/10/2017

The November ballot in Maine will once again ask voters whether to approve millions in bonds for transportation uses.

Question 3 on the Nov. 7 statewide ballot will ask voters about a plan to fund $105 million in road and bridge work and other transportation purposes throughout the state. The question was added to the fall ballot after Maine state lawmakers authorized it earlier this year.

Passage of the transportation bond initiative would result in $80 million designated for construction and maintenance of state highways and local bridges. The state’s ports, harbors, transit and freight rail, and bicycle and pedestrian trails would receive $20 million. Another $5 million would be applied to culvert upgrades.

The money is used to support the Maine Department of Transportation’s work plan.

A year ago, voters approved a $100 million bond to fund transportation projects. Distribution amounts were identical to the 2017 version, but there was no allotment for culvert upgrades.

Supporters say the bonds are needed to secure an estimated $137 million in federal matching funds, and other funds, for transportation work in the state.

Opponents say it’s not good business to rely on borrowing to pay for projects. Instead, they say the state would be better served to increase the tax rates on gas and diesel to pay for needed work and to match federal funds. They say the tried-and-true method of raising revenue is fairer, cheaper and more efficient.

Advocates contend that the state relies on fuel taxes, and registration and excise fees for most of the state’s revenue. But as vehicles have become more fuel-efficient, they add that revenue into the highway fund has declined, limiting necessary investments in infrastructure projects.

City of Bath
A separate question on the ballot in the city of Bath will ask voters whether to approve a $2.8 million bond for street and sidewalk improvements. Passage of the referendum would also allow the city to tap additional funds available through grant programs.

If approved, work in the community northeast of Portland would take place over the next five years.

For more 2017 election coverage from Land Line, click here.



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