Maine lawmakers consider merging Turnpike Authority with DOT

| 10/11/2007

Concerns about a projected $2.2 billion shortfall in transportation funding during the next decade has officials in Maine brainstorming how to fill the gap.

One possible solution is to combine the Maine Department of Transportation with the Maine Turnpike Authority. Gov. John Baldacci and Sen. Karl Turner, R-Cumberland, are leading the charge to consider the merger.

The Democratic governor said the Turnpike Authority isn’t alone in its status of needing to be tidied up. Baldacci said all the transportation authorities – port, rail and turnpike – need to be included in the clean up efforts, the Morning Sentinel reported.

Turner said consideration of consolidating the agencies is a logical step to take.

Maine is not alone in throwing around the idea of overhauling its transportation system. In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick is looking to consolidate all ground transportation agencies in the state.

One option Baldacci isn’t interested in pursuing is charging drivers a fee to use the interstate. As an alternative, he’s directed the Maine DOT to do a better job of saving money. He also is calling on the federal government to provide more funding for roads.

The blame for the budget crunch in the DOT is the result of fewer federal dollars available, high fuel prices that leads to reduced consumption to help fill the state highway fund, as well as higher construction costs.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maine in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor