A Post-COVID-19 Focus For Transportation Spending

Carl Eppich, AICP, GrowSmart Maine board member

Who’s missing being on the road in this new COVID-19 pandemic reality?  What about those vacation trips we had planned for this spring and summer?! According to the Maine Turnpike Authority, traffic is down around 40%, a strong indicator for travel statewide and beyond.

However, in recent weeks we’ve seen traffic ticking back up.  The good news is that we will travel again. And traveling requires maintenance of our roads, bridges, buses, trains, and airports…and that means lots of money. The return of transportation and maintenance of the system will be critical for job recovery, as will access to goods and services at all scales – in rural remote hamlets to our service centers and downtowns along the coast and inland to the fields and forests.

This coming September, the current transportation authorization bill expires. Through this bill, Congress develops and authorizes hundreds of billions of dollars for federal-aid transportation projects, including transit operations and air travel support.

These billions of dollars impact Maine communities in many ways, by supporting road maintenance, making places safer for travel by bicycling and walking (“active transportation”) and recreational purposes, enabling ferry transit to our beautiful islands, and providing air infrastructure for air travel so critical to the Vacationland economy of Maine.

With so much need for transportation dollars, it is important that these funds be allocated to the most important maintenance and safety projects.  And perhaps now more than ever, that these dollars benefit our downtowns and associated businesses to keep our unique place vibrant with jobs and customers.

With this in mind, the Board of GSM has recently signed on to support Transportation for America’s letter to Congress that emphasizes a new focus and framework for the authorization. This framework is centered on the following three principles:

  • Fund maintenance, not expansion, in order to cut our national maintenance backlog in half
  • Establish a culture of designing for safety in order to lower vehicle speeds and make roads safe for all road users
  • Measure the success of transportation programs by how well they connect people to jobs and services

We encourage you to read more about the details of transportation reauthorization and Transportation for America’s vision, which supports the work of GrowSmart Maine here at the local level. We also suggest you directly write your congressperson and senators on the reauthorization principles and the importance of the new framework for a post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

For more information on the Federal Transportation Reauthorization, see https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LmzYSUYisrjC0cI1ZuXfPR6qcUP-ACbA/view