Report: Maine's rural roads in rough shape

(NEWS CENTER) -- Only seven states ranked higher than Maine for poor road conditions; eight ranked worse for having structurally deficient bridges.

TRIP, a national non-profit transportation research group, conducted the research into the road conditions of all 50 states.

Maine's lowly ranking really isn't a surprise - it is the same spot Maine was in for the 2014 report.

The report found 26 percent of Maine's rural roads have pavement that is in poor condition. Fifteen percent of the state's rural bridges are structurally deficient.

Maine's rural roads and bridges may be in rough shape, but people who oversee Maine's transportation infrastructure said they are safe to travel over.

"There may be some that need some upgrades as far as paving and whatnot, but structurally everything is sound," Senator Ron Collins of Wells is the chairman of the Legislature's Transportation committee.

Making sure roads and bridges are safe is what the Maine Department of Transportation does by prioritizing. Limited funding for projects go to the state's most pressing needs. Keeping up with them is a challenge.

"Every state's transportation needs always exceed available funding that's just the fact. You can talk to any state. What we do is prioritize prioritize our roads, bridges, ports," said MDOT spokesman Ted Talbot.

Talbot said that the state currently spends about $70 million a year on upgrading its bridges.

"What we need is double the $70 million to keep up our bridges safe and extend the lifespan," he said.

Coming up with more money for roads and bridges is the difficult part. Increasing the gas tax is one solution that would target all Maine drivers, but politically it's not a very popular move. An alternative is requiring a toll on interstate highways such as I-295 which would target visitors too.

The Federal Highway Fund, which Maine and other states rely on, runs out at the end of the month. Congress is trying to find at least a temporary fix to keep the funding flowing, but the fund is facing a shortfall of about $169 billion over the next 10 years.


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