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Maine's three-year transportation work plan bolstered by federal funds

Maine's Transportation Department has issued its new three-year work plan.

Commissioner Bruce Van Note says it's a more ambitious plan, thanks to increased funding expected from the federal infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year.

Broken Bridge
Pat Wellenbach
AP file
In this Sept. 13, 2011 photo, a car passes by part of a road that has crumbled away in Durham, Maine.

"The work plan is, over the three years, is literally hundreds of millions more than we've done in prior work plans anticipating these additional federal funds," he says. "DOT has kind of been in 'MacGyver' mode for a while, doing the best we can with what we have. Looking forward to making long-term investments on things that have been more challenging."

Van Note says inflation in construction costs could eat up some of the extra money. But he's also excited about a portion of the infrastructure funding designated for projects states will compete for. He says overall funding for those has been doubled and could pay for more "transformational" improvements than simply keeping roads and bridges paved and striped.

In addition to roads and bridges, Van Note says there will be more money for local transit systems, for rail, ports, airports and bicycle and pedestrian improvements. And he says it will expand on work the department has helped with in several Maine towns.

"You can go down to Ogunquit, you can drive up [Route] 302 to look at Naples, or Bridgton, or now what we're doing in Fryeburg and get a sense of how you can invest in those places that can make a real long-term difference," he says.

Van Note says, until now, the department was limited to spending about a million dollars to help communities plan and execute upgrades like sidewalks, street lighting and other amenities. Thanks to the increased federal funding, Van Note says the state is now ready to help communities with more expensive projects.