The Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has released the 2020 Report Card for Maine’s Infrastructure. Maine civil engineers gave 16 categories of infrastructure an overall grade of a C-, meaning the state’s infrastructure is in mediocre condition.

According to a press release, civil engineers graded aviation B, bridges C-, dams D+, drinking water C, energy C+, hazardous waste D+, levees C-, parks C, ports B-, rail C+, roads D, schools C, solid waste C-, stormwater C-, transit D+ and wastewater D+.

“As the pandemic continues to devastate not only our public health but also our economy, rebuilding and modernizing our transportation systems will put more Americans back to work, allow products to reach markets more quickly, and increase safety,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in the release. “As the chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, my priority is to improve our nation’s infrastructure and ensure that Maine’s needs are addressed.

"The ASCE’s Report Card is a critical tool through which we can assess our needs and measure our progress. By continuing to work together, with all levels of government in partnership with community leaders, industry, and education and research institutions, we will keep Maine on the move.”

The report highlights some positive trends due to increased funding in the past several years, but not enough to make the grade go up since 2016, which was also a C-. Maine’s surface transportation network — which includes bridges (C-), roads (D) and transit (D+) — has lacked the funding mechanisms necessary to make substantial improvements.

Maine has the highest fatality rate on its roadways of all New England states at 1.04 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. According to Maine DOT’s Three-Year Work Plan, the projected annual funding gap for roads and bridges is $233 million, and this was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly 60% of Maine’s bridges are over 50 years old, surpassing their useful design life, and 13% of the state’s 3,754 bridges are deemed structurally deficient. Most road conditions are in fairly good shape, but 8% of Maine’s highest-priority roads have poor or unacceptable ratings in condition and safety and this number is expected to climb due to the annual funding gap.

Improvements in Maine’s multimodal freight transportation network, including the state’s aviation (B), ports (B-) and railroad (C+) infrastructure, has provided greater economic opportunities and efficiencies across the state. Aviation infrastructure received the highest grade of a B, citing $121 million in Airport Improvement Program funding since 2016 and an additional $731 million in Passenger Facility Charge revenue in the state’s four commercial airports. However, the nationwide $4.50 per segment cap on the PFC, in place since 2000, limits how much airports can invest in their own facilities to prepare for future growth.

Maine’s ports have seen increases in shipping volumes in recent years. The International Marine Terminal in Portland alone has seen a 120% increase in the number of containers that have come through its facilities between 2015 and 2019. To help facilitate this growth, the state’s ports have received over $104 million in state and federal funds over the last 12 years, although an additional $110 million is needed for improving intermodal connections and industrial infrastructure.

Some ports are now connected to the rail system, which provides a valuable link for effectively moving freight without adding traffic to the interstate highway system. To further enhance efficiency through these connections, current investments are being made to ensure all rail mainlines in Maine will be able to support 286,000-pound railcars, the standard with Class I railroads and a major modernization milestone.

“Investments in our airports, marine terminals, and freight network are a perfect examples of how prioritizing infrastructure can lead to increased business opportunities and expanded connectivity within our state and throughout New England,” said Dan Bouchard, P.E., ASCE Maine Section president. “Our needs will only grow after the impacts of COVID-19 are fully realized, so it is imperative that we prioritize investment in all infrastructure sectors to ensure Mainers’ needs are met.”

Aging drinking water infrastructure (C) is a serious issue for Maine’s water utilities as they continue to miss the 1% annual replacement rate. In response, the Maine Rural Water Association, Maine Water Utilities Association and RCAP Solutions are developing standardized metrics that assess operational parameters, including asset management practices and leak detection programs.

Municipal wastewater infrastructure (D+) is also aging, with many treatment facilities being built in the 1970s. However, recent improvements have helped reduce the volume of combined sewage and stormwater discharged from 6.2 billion gallons in 1987 to 0.5 billion gallons in 2018.

Energy received one of the higher grades in the report (C+). Maine is a leader in renewable generation, with approximately 75% of the state’s net generation being renewable energy compared to 18% for the U.S. — largely due to an increase in wind generation and reduction in gas generation.

Maine has benefited from major investments in its aging transmission and distribution network. However, Maine’s transmission and distribution network has begun to reach the end of its useful life which, when combined with an increase in severe weather events, is leading to frequent outages statewide. These factors led to the energy grade decrease from a B- in 2016 down to a C+ in 2020.

The Report Card also includes recommendations to raise the grades. For example, asset management has proven to be a valuable tool for analyzing conditions and prioritizing capital improvements and rehabilitation for several sectors, but many infrastructure agencies in the state have not yet implemented the practice, leaving their networks vulnerable to a pattern of reactionary and oftentimes expensive updates and repairs.

The report recommended that asset management data and strategic long-term planning should be implemented across all infrastructure portfolios. In addition, agency and utility leaders from all sectors need to create consistent, dedicated funding from a variety of sources; investments should be made based on research and development to promote innovation.

"In rural states like ours, unsafe and beat up infrastructure impacts our lives every day,” said Rep. Jared Golden, D-Dist. 2. “It makes commutes longer, more dangerous, and it damages our vehicles. It makes it harder to get Maine-made products to market, and holds our entire economy back from its full potential. Mainers deserve better. I applaud Maine ASCE for compiling this important resource and I look forward to using it to inform my work in Congress."

Bruce Van Note, Maine DOT commissioner, said, “We appreciate the work of the engineers who independently reviewed this technical information, even if the grades are not always satisfying. ASCE is a tough grader, but the report card is fair. The dedicated and hardworking men and women at Maine DOT do the best they can with limited resources.

"We look forward to future discussions about both short- and long-term funding solutions to help us continue to improve the safety, economic opportunity, and quality of life we cherish in Maine.”

The Report Card was created as a public service to citizens and policymakers to inform them of the infrastructure needs in their state. Civil engineers used their expertise and school report card letter grades to condense complicated data into an easy-to-understand analysis of Maine’s infrastructure network. ASCE State and Regional Infrastructure Report Cards are modeled after the national Infrastructure Report Card, which gave America’s infrastructure a grade of D+ in 2017.

A full copy of the Report Card for Maine’s Infrastructure is available at infrastructurereportcard.org/state-item/maine/.