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Transportation and Infrastructure
Mike's top priority is promoting policies that support a healthy economy and job creation. Since being elected to Congress, Mike has been a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee because of the important role the committee plays in our economy.
THE HOUSE TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE COMMITTEE
From his position on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I Committee), Mike has fought for substantial transportation funding increases in Maine to help boost our economy and improve safety for our citizens. The significant increases Mike was able to secure for our state continues to generate jobs for thousands of Mainers. It is also providing critical improvements to existing highways and the construction of new roads and bridges, and helping to maximize transportation efficiency. All of these combined will make our state's businesses more competitive in the long term. Safe and efficient transportation is vital to our nation’s economy, and especially to Maine's economy, which depends heavily on tourism and natural resource-based industries. Mike believes that investment in transportation means investment in our jobs and our livelihoods.
As a leading member of the T&I Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Development, Mike crafted and passed his bill in the House to create a Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) on October 4th, 2007. His bill was later passed into law as a part of the Farm Bill in the summer of 2008. The NBRC is charged with investing in the economic development of the most distressed areas of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Upstate New York. On September 29th, 2010, the NBRC made its first investments in Maine, including an expansion of the Port of Eastport, which is part of a project that will result in the retention of 18 jobs and the creation of 26 new ones.
As Chair of the Appropriations Committee in the Maine Senate, Mike transferred significant general fund dollars to transportation, to be sure that we were making a strong investment each year. As a Member of Congress, he has continued to focus on transportation funding and has made it a top priority. Federal funding through multi-year surface transportation authorizations generate thousands of jobs in Maine.
SAFETEA-LU: On August 10, 2005, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act - A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) was signed into law. This act reauthorized and updated federal surface transportation programs through the end of fiscal year 2009. As a member of the T&I Committee, Mike helped to pass this bill, which authorized a substantial increase in funding for Maine's highways and high priority projects. It authorized $950 million for Maine highways between 2005 and 2009, representing an average increase of about 30% - or $44 million - per year from the previous authorized amount. Additionally, Mike was able to secure $48.8 million in funding for high need projects in the Second Congressional District alone. This compares to $45 million for such projects for the entire state in the last authorization bill in 1998.
New Multi-year Transportation Bill: While the 2005 bill contained some important policy and funding updates, the final product was ultimately diluted due to the Bush Administration's steadfast resistance to adequately funding program levels at what its own Department of Transportation recommended. Because of this, many states have not been able to fund a number of important projects. Recognizing that more is needed to provide our nation with safe and efficient transportation, Mike is currently working with his colleagues on the committee to draft a new multi-year highway reauthorization that will address current needs and allow our states to fund their priorities.
HELPING MAINE INCREASE ROAD SAFETY
On June 3rd, 2011, Mike introduced the High Risk Rural Roads Safety Act, which will make it easier for rural states like Maine to invest in road safety measures in order to save lives.
According to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2008, Maine had the fourth highest percentage of fatal crashes on rural roads in the nation. These crashes represented 90 percent of the state’s road fatalities for that year. Early estimates from 2010 data indicate that New England states have seen an 18 percent increase in fatal crashes over 2009.
Congress created the High Risk Rural Roads program in 2005 in the last update of federal transportation programs. This program authorized $90 million each year for all 50 states. Even with the use of low cost safety solutions, these funds were stretched dramatically thin. In addition, the definition of “high risk rural road” was restrictive, which added to the states’ difficulty in accessing the funds.
The High Risk Rural Roads Safety Act of 2011 will address these problems and invest $400 million annually for cost effective roadway safety infrastructure improvements to help reduce fatalities and create jobs. Additionally, it will target rural road safety investments to help keep rural residents as safe as possible. Such improvements, which can include improved signs and pavement markings, guardrail and cable barrier installation, and rumble strips, are generally low cost and yield tremendous returns on investment.
FIXING MAINE’S TRUCK WEIGHT PROBLEM
For many years now, there has been a mismatch between federal and state truck weight limits in Maine. Mike has been working to fix this discrepancy and correct the problems that it has caused.
Federal laws generally require that vehicles may not exceed 80,000 pounds on federal interstate roads. States may set their own rules on state maintained roads, and Maine has a 100,000 pound limit on its roads. This means that trucks weighing between 80,000 and 100,000 pounds must be diverted off of the Interstate to travel through much of Maine.
Mike strongly believes that allowing trucks of up to 100,000 pounds on the Interstate in Maine would promote safety for our citizens by keeping them on the major highways and away from small towns, schools, and homes. This change would also reduce the highway maintenance costs in Maine because the Interstate, unlike the secondary roads in Maine, are more durable and are built to accommodate heavy vehicles.
Studies have shown that if the weight limit on the Interstate were changed to 100,000 pounds, Maine would see fewer crashes each year, and would also save between $1.7 and $2.3 million in reduced pavement repair.
A study done by Maine trucking company H.O. Bouchard, Inc. illustrates how changing the weight limit on Maine’s Interstate could drastically improve efficiency and safety. It found that a truck travelling 120.8 miles from Hampden to Houlton from 6:40 AM to 9:35 AM on Route 2 shifted 192 times, encountered 9 school crossings, 4 hospitals, 30 street lights, 86 crosswalks, applied brakes 68 times, met 644 vehicles, crossed 4 railroad tracks, and drove by 10 school buses. By contrast, a truck travelling that same time of day on Interstate 95, drove 122.1 miles, didn’t use their brakes, only shifted 3 times and encountered no schools, hospitals, street lights, crosswalks, vehicles, railroad tracks or school buses.
Over the years, Mike has introduced bills that would give Maine a waiver from federal weight limits and allow 100,000 pound trucks on I-95. Despite some progress, some in Congress remain strongly opposed to any changes in truck weight standards anywhere in the US. Mike continues to work hard to educate other members of Congress and to build consensus on the need to address this issue. He was successful in securing a Highways and Transit Subcommittee hearing on truck weights on July 9, 2008. The Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner testified before the subcommittee on behalf of the State of Maine's request to exempt the remainder of its Interstate System from federal truck weights so that it is consistent with state weight limits.
Eventually, a one-year pilot project allowing 100,000 pound trucks on the entirety of the Maine Interstate System was passed into law. Despite significant opposition in the House of Representatives, Mike worked to ensure that the pilot program was not stripped from the final version of the legislation. Unfortunately, the pilot program expired at the end of 2010. Mike worked hard to inform other members of Congress on the problems caused by disparities between federal and state truck weight limits and the need for a permanent solution in Maine and the nation.
On February 17th, 2011, Mike reintroduced his bill, the “Safe and Efficient Transportation Act,” which would allow Maine and other states to increase the weight of trucks allowed on their Interstate Systems. The reintroduction of the legislation comes as Congress prepares to consider the first bill to reauthorize surface transportation programs in more than six years. On April 6th, 2011, Senators Mike Crapo (ID), Susan Collins (ME), Herb Kohl (WI), and Rob Portman (OH) introduced Mike’s bill in the Senate.
In November of 2011, a funding bill was passsed into law that contained a 20 year fix to Maine's truck weight problem. Michaud worked with Democratic and Republican leaders in the House to ensure that the provision pushed by Senators Leahy and Collins in the Senate survived and made it in the final bill.
A Congressional Research Service report on the legislative history of this issue can be found HERE, and an informative video that explains the situation can be found below.
ADVANCING NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO IMPROVE INFRASTRUCTURE
Over the years, Mike has worked to secure funding for the University of Maine’s research and development into advanced composites. These investments have lead to practical applications that are already being put to use in the state of Maine.
In March, 2011, UMaine’s innovative Bridge-in-a-Backpack project, which was spearheaded by Dr. Habib Dagher, the director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at UMaine, received the American Society of Civil Engineer’s “Charles Pankow Award for Innovation,” which recognizes the contributions of organizations working collaboratively to advance the design and construction industry by introducing innovation into practice.