Maine Department of Transportation Cuts back on Projects Due to Inflation

July 19, 2022

The Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) has had to reject seven bids this year due to inflation.

Multiple projects went over budget due to rising costs of goods, such as the reconstruction of a major bridge in Old Town that was built in 1952. The lowest bid came out to over $39 million, just about doubling what the state had budgeted. A department report in 2020 stated that the bridge was in poor condition, but the structure was satisfactory.

For years, transportation planners have struggled to stay ahead of the curve of the rising costs of materials. However, recent cost spikes have made it difficult for the already wounded situation. The department had rejected multiple projects that went over budget in 2019.

MaineDOT has thrown out 59 bids since 2018. State officials have blamed a tight labor market for the rising costs of prices. In the last year, soaring fuel and material costs hurt construction companies' challenge in finding workers.

“They have never seen it quite like this, everyone is waiting for things to settle out because they simply can’t stay where they are right now,” Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note said. The cost of road and bridge construction has gone up 50 percent in the last four years, he estimated.

MaineDOT rejected nearly $28 million in work, which is roughly 10% of its annual budget.

“Sometimes we break the work up into smaller contracts,” department spokesperson Paul Merrill said. “Reconsider allowing night work because it is more expensive. Lots of different ways to sharpen our pencils to make sure the work still gets delivered.”

Inflation has hurt the impact of the highway funding Maine has received through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Maine was looking at an extra $66 million a year for bridge and highway projects.

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Source: MaineDOT