4. 22. 2020

Decline in Maine Traffic Resulting in State Highway Fund Receipts Tanking

$125 million hole in funding expected
MaineDOT is facing a dramatic loss in funds as traffic declines sharply due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Department is estimating that state fuel tax revenues will plummet 40 percent for the first two quarters of 2020, and another 15 percent in the following 12 months. That represents a drop of $125 million over the current biennium.

According to state figures, traffic is down by 52 percent statewide and more than 60 percent in the Portland area since the social distancing requirements resulting from the pandemic began. 

StateDOTs in need of relief funds
In the last round of Congressional action aimed at providing pandemic relief, the CARES Act directed $150 billion in funding to state governments; however, unless the U.S. Treasury provides additional guidance and clarification, those funds cannot be used to help bail out state DOTs. Therefore, it is critical that MaineDOT receive federal funds to fill the hole in the state’s Highway Fund. The CARES Act provided much needed relief for transit and airports, businesses, charitable organization and educational institutions, among others, but Congress hasn’t yet addressed state DOT needs. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is calling for $50 billion in relief funds to state DOTs, which MBTA is urging Congress to act upon quickly.

MBTA President Paul Bradbury noted: “As Congress continues to deliberate on how to help the nation cope with the pandemic, there is a strong case to be made for Washington to provide funding to cover losses in state highway funds. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy, and like other revenues, fuel taxes have been impacted.”

What if MaineDOT doesn’t receive the money?
If the money is not recovered, transportation-related jobs will be impacted, including private sector design and construction jobs, and well as indirect jobs. According to MaineDOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note: “Without emergency relief, many jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in capital projects are at risk; this, in turn, jeopardizes the safety and operational effectiveness of Maine’s highways and bridge system."

The Department's 2020 capital program alone supports over 12,000 direct and indirect jobs including on-site construction jobs, supply chain jobs, and jobs supported when workers spend their wages. 

MaineDOT’s Construction Advertisement Plan (CAP) for 2020 has over 200 capital projects located throughout Maine, including:
  • 51 bridge projects with a value of $217 million;
  • 14 miles of highway reconstruction and rehabilitation - $63.1 million;
  • 322 miles of highway pavement preservation - $105 million;
  • 600 miles of light capital paving - $25 million; and
  • 25 multimodal projects supporting ports, ferries, passenger rail, freight rail, and other modes with a value of $36 million. 

A 'bright spot'
Commissioner Van Note also noted that “as the state gradually transitions from stay-at-home orders to a ‘new normal’, reauthorization of the federal surface transportation bill and related transportation matters will allow us to stimulate more jobs and be a rare bright spot in this COVID-19 ravaged economy when we need it most.” 

Clearly, a well-funded and timely federal transportation reauthorization bill would provide needed stability to states. MBTA and many others are calling for Congress to develop a robust transportation reauthorization bill immediately following short-term, stimulus relief for the states.
 
The MBTA staff will continue to closely monitor developments on this issue and let you know if we need your help with Maine’s Congressional delegation, which continues to be very engaged in helping the state through the pandemic and the recovery. In her position as Senate Chairman of the Transportation and HUD subcommittee, US Senator Susan Collins has been instrumental in helping formulate and coalesce support on initiatives to help small businesses and transportation.

Please watch your e-mail, and MBTA social media posts for more information as it comes available.
For more information, contact Maria@mbtaonline.org ,
(207-622-0526) or (207-592-0227).
MBTA E-Alerts are a free service provided by the Maine Better Transportation Association. To find out more about the MBTA, visit  mbtaonline.org