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  • Maine needs 15% bridge repair - more transportation bonds must happen

    Inspecting the Augusta bridge in 2007, with the MDOT and Gov. John Baldacci. Since then the bridge has been strengthened because of Baldacci's bonds. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramona du Houx

    A survey by a national transportation group found that 15 percent of Maine bridges have some structural deficiency. The report found that 364 of the state’s bridges had structural deficiencies and another 432 were functionally obsolete, meaning they don’t meet modern design standards, out of a total 2,419 bridges over 20 feet long that were surveyed.

    Under the Baldacci administration bridges were upgraded and emergency bonds put into action. In addition new technologies like Dr. Habib Dagher's "bridge-n-a-backpack" were used to construct stronger, more durable and more easy to maintain bridges.

    The world’s first “Bridge in a Backpack” can be seen in Pittsfield as the Neal Bridge. That 44-foot structure used 23 arches in its construction and cut down the time of erecting a bridge — which was built by UMaine students, professors, and the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT).

    Governor John Baldacci made sure ten percent of Maine’s bridges would be built from the technology developed at the Composite Center in a transportation bond. That enabled the first Bridge in a Backpack to be constructed, and every since then attention and acclaim has been rolling in. With revolutionary examples of a light weight, more durable and flexible bridge technology here in Maine other states continue to see the advantages of using the “Bridge-n-a-Backpack.” The company that manufactures the bridges is owned and operated by Mainers in Orono, near UMaine.

    Bridge-n-a-backpack on display at UMaine. Photo by Ramona du Houx.

    In 2008 Baldacci responded to the Minneapolis bridge collapse of 2007 by having an immediate survey of Maine's bridges and then by allocating $100million to upgrade and construct bridges to replace the one's at risk.UMaine composites were used by the MDOT to make the bridges safer.

    We now need a huge infussion of funds for the MDOT to upgrade our bridges.

    Gov. LePage has held up transportation bonds in the past. This November's will be one of the few he actually supports. 

    The survey cited a 2014 Maine Department of Transportation Report that estimated the number of bridges in poor condition would triple by 2021. The average annual state funding for bridges would need to increase from 2009 to 2013 levels by about $38 million each year to maintain state bridges in their current conditions.

    According to the report the current average annual funding would need to increase by about $114 million to maintain the state’s entire bridge system.