Maine Governor John E. Baldacci and New Hampshire Governor John Lynch today signed concurrent Executive Orders creating a Bi-State Bridge Funding Task Force.
“The three bridges across the Piscataqua River are essential to Maine and New Hampshire,” said Governor Baldacci. “It’s in the interest of both of our states to work together to find the best way to finance the work that needs to be done to improve and maintain these critical transportation links. Both Governor Lynch and I are committed to identifying a cooperative and cost-effective solution to address all three bridges.”
In the Executive Orders, both governors recognized the need to replace the Memorial Bridge, to replace or significantly rehabilitate the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge and to maintain the Piscataqua River Bridge that carries Interstate 95. The estimated capital costs over the next several years could be as high as $300 million for the three jointly owned bridges.
Baldacci also said that he has been briefed on the draft of the Maine-New Hampshire Connections Study, which will identify options for replacing or maintaining the Memorial Bridge and the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge. The study assumes the Piscataqua River Bridge will be maintained in good condition.
“It’s clear to me that we must replace the Memorial Bridge,” said Baldacci. “I know that the study needs to be completed and public comments considered, but I recognize how important the Memorial Bridge is to Kittery and Portsmouth. The replacement of the bridge has to be part of any plan that I would support.”
The duties of the Task Force are to identify mechanisms that would allow the states to jointly maximize funding for necessary work, identify joint financing options, and to propose necessary legislation that may be necessary in each state.
The Task Force must report to the governors no later than Dec. 15, 2010.
The Maine Members of the Task Force are the Maine Commissioner of Transportation, the Chair of the Maine Turnpike Authority and a representative of a statewide business organization, to be appointed by the Governor.
In August, Governor Baldacci sent a letter supporting a federal grant application by New Hampshire that seeks funding to replace the Memorial Bridge. The application was submitted under the TIGER II Discretionary Grant program, which will award funding on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area or a region. The U.S. Department of Transportation is authorized to award $600 million nationally for the program. Nearly 1,000 applications were submitted seeking more than $19 billion.