More than one-third, or 36%, of Maine's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, showing significant deterioration or no longer meeting current design standards, according to a new report recently released by TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation research group.
The TRIP report, Maine's Roads and Bridges: An Analysis of the
Ability of Maine's Transportation System to Meet the State's Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility, also finds that the traffic fatality rate on Maine's rural, non-Interstate roads is more than four times greater than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state (2.08 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel versus 0.43 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel). Nearly 200 people are killed each year in motor vehicle crashes in Maine.
The report also found that 27% of Maine's state-maintained roads do not meet current design standards.
"Increased state and federal highway funding is necessary if we are to continue modernizing our highway system," said John Bubier, city manager of Biddeford. "Our roads and bridges are aging. In fact, as the TRIP report indicates, half of Maine's bridges are 50 years old or more."
The Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) has identified as critical to the state's future mobility, traffic safety and economic growth, key highway and bridge projects that are currently unfunded through at least 2008. The cost of these key unfunded projects is $641 million.
"Regular road and bridge maintenance and improvements are critical to Maine's future mobility, traffic safety and economic growth," said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. "Maine's economy literally rides on its highway system."
Additional findings of the TRIP report:
Fourteen percent of Maine's roads are rated in poor condition and 17% of the state's roads are in mediocre condition. Roads rated poor may show signs of deterioration, including rutting, cracks and potholes;
Forty-five of Maine's rural, non-Interstate routes are too narrow, with lane widths of no more than 10 ft;
Fifteen percent of Maine's bridges are structurally deficient. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components;
Twenty-one percent of Maine's bridges are functionally obsolete. Bridges that are functionally obsolete no longer meet current highway design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment;
Vehicle travel in Maine increased by 28% from 1990 to 2004. TRIP estimates that vehicle travel in Maine will increase by approximately 25% by the year 2020; and
Growing urban congestion in the Portland region has also created bottlenecks for both local commuters and motorists trying to reach Maine's recreation areas.