Civil Engineers Give Maine’s Infrastructure a “C-” in 2020 Report Card

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Maine civil engineers gave 16 categories of infrastructure a cumulative grade of a “C-,” meaning the state’s systems are just below mediocre condition. 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+).

Grades were unveiled at the Senator Inn & Spa in Augusta, Maine and streamed to a virtual audience. ASCE Maine Section President Dan Bouchard, P.E., guided a virtual audience through the report’s findings. He was joined by guest speakers Dana Connors, Chair of Maine’s Chamber of Commerce, and Bruce Van Note, Commissioner of MaineDOT.

ASCE Maine Section President Dan Bouchard, P.E., unveiling the 2020 grades.

Surface transportation received the lion’s share of attention, as the state’s network of roads (D), bridges (C-), and transit (D+) systems have not experienced significant improvements in recent years. However, the state has prioritized freight transportation and Mainers are reaping the benefits. Ports (B-) have also seen an uptick in investment, receiving over $104 million over the last 12 years to improve facilities and connect to the rail system, which has helped facilitate additional shipping volumes. 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.

 

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. 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.

“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,” said Senator Susan Collins. “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.”

Read the full report here.

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