We asked each candidate to take a position on whether they favored the replacement of the Memorial Bridge with a bridge capable of vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic. We then followed up with a question concerning how the candidate planned to pay for the bridge. We rated each of the candidates independently on each question.
On the issue of support for the Bridge, they were either for it or against it. Some were rated in between based on their answers and conviction.
On the issue of funding, the scale went from "No Plan" to "Flexible Plan", with again some room in the middle for candidate equivocation.
Like most decisions, the decision for each voter will be difficult. Some are more "electable" than others. Some have taken positions that are complete, and others not. The following chart shows a summary of each of the candidate positions. Below the chart is an explanation of how each was rated.
The individual candidate positions are discussed in the order in which they came to Kittery.
Elliot Cutler (I)
Elliot Cutler was clear about his position on the Memorial Bridge. He recognized the problem, and committed to solving the problem. He did not commit to a particular solution, meaning he did not commit to a vehicular replacement for the Bridge. Thus he is rated as neither being for nor against the Bridge. In terms of funding, he discussed reducing the cost of government through zero-based-budgeting, but that the bridge would need additional funding. He recognized the need for bonding, and the need for legislative and voter support. He also discussed the need for identifying a revenue stream to pay off the bonds, and seemed flexible to discuss a variety of methods.
Libby Mitchell (D)
Libby Mitchell was less clear in our meeting concerning her position on the Memorial Bridge. While after the meeting she indicated support for a vehicular replacement bridge, during the meeting she avoided answering the question. She did talk about the need to get people together to discuss the problem and to come to a resolution, but failed to take a articular position. It was reported in the Herald that she supported the vehicular replacement of the bridge. Her position for funding was that it would need to be bonded, but she did not discuss how the bonds would be repaid.
Paul LePage (R)
Paul LePage took a strong position regarding the Memorial Bridge saying he would accept New Hampshire's offer to front Maine's portion of the cost of the bridge. When asked how he would pay for the bridge he talked about reducing the cost of state government programs, without identifying which ones. When challenged on the size of the deficit, plus the need to pay for the Bridge, he returned to his statement about reducing the cost of government. In other statements he has reiterated his former position of no new bonds, no new taxes, and no new fees, including tolls.
Rick Scott (I)
Rick Scott, after some reflection on the issue, said he favored redirecting the traffic currently on the Memorial Bridge to the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge. He also said that would not require any additional funding.
Shawn Moody (I)
Shawn Moody listened to our presentation and said that it was obvious that the Memorial Bridge would have to be replaced with a vehicular bridge. He also discussed the need for bonding to fund the construction and a variety of methods to pay for the bonds. He favored a flexible funding for the Bridge.
Over the next few weeks, there are a number of critical meetings that may determine the fate of the Memorial Bridge. Public involvement in these meetings will be essential. Two of the meetings are of the Connections Study. One meeting is being organized by the York County Chamber of Commerce, and the art exhibition is a celebration of the role of the bridges in our valued art community.
The Connections Study has been trying to adjust to the New Hampshire offer of assistance to Maine, and to continue to narrow down the options to the final recommendation. At the last meeting we learned about the severe deterioration of the Memorial Bridge, and how the Repair/Rehab option was no longer viable. This brought the remaining options for the Memorial Bridge to only two: Replacement or Replacement with a Bike Pedestrian Bridge. The no-build option had been taken off the table months ago. There are still 5 options remaining for the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge: Rehab, Replace (2 or 4 lane, same line or slightly up stream).
The expectation has been throughout this process that we would start with a large (and exhaustive) number of options, and systematically eliminate the options that did not meet the objectives of the study. Participation in the study has been significant, from USDOT, MDOT, NHDOT, and from the local communities on both sides of the river. Up until recently the process looked as though it was being followed carefully. But the process seems to be off the track now, and these meetings should hopefully get it back on track.
Prior to the last meeting, MDOT began lobbying for the Bike Ped option outside the process. New Hampshire responded with the funding offer, which may have been motivated by the need to make some application deadlines for the TIGER II funding. New Hampshire definitely won the PR battle on that round.
Maine appears to be now trying to introduce a completely new option to the process at the 11th hour. Introducing this option, removing the Memorial Bridge and instituting a bus service between Kittery and Portsmouth, at this time, within the final weeks of the project, without any public oversight, is a highly questionable tactic. The option itself is absurd. A similar option (the no build option) were removed from consideration months ago because it did not meet the needs of the community or the study.
Everyone needs to have their voices heard on this subject. Please attend the meetings.
The Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce is hosting a meeting of Kittery Business Owners to focus on the threat of the Memorial Bridge Closure. The meeting is being held at Warren's Lobster House, June 23rd at 5 PM, just prior to the Connections Study Public Meeting in Portsmouth.
Kittery Business owners should register for the event by clicking on this link.
The meeting will focus on the key messages needed to send to Augusta about the critical need for the Memorial Bridge to the business community.
The Memorial Bridge does more than just provide an economic lifeline to our community, it also provides an artistic lifeline. Artists and galleries are on both sides of the river. There are more live performances in the Portsmouth-Kittery area on a per capita basis that almost anywhere. The Memorial Bridge allows the arts community to be connected. And the bridge is the subject of much of the art created in the area.
Whether it is Artist Bill Paarlberg's vision of the Memorial Bridge being destroyed by a giant monster(or is that the DOT in disguise?) or more traditional art, or the float that was a part of last Halloween's parade, the Memorial Bridge is a part of the artistic heritage of our community.The exhibit will run for the last two weeks of July. Put it on your calendar.
At the Stakeholders meeting for the Maine New Hampshire Connections Study, NHTB consultants went over the first round of the "Fatal Flaw Analysis". This analysis is a process that through a series of reviews is designed to eliminate the options for connecting Portsmouth and Kittery that for one reason or another do not make sense. In the first round of this analysis only the highest level of analysis is done, to save taxpayer money. As the second and third rounds continue, the analysis will get more detailed (and more costly), will be done on fewer options, and will continue to eliminate options from the list.
The Fatal Flaw analysis is now through the first round of analysis and has reduced the options to a list of about 12 options. Five of these options relate to the Memorial Bridge, and the others to the Sarah Long Bridge.
For the Memorial Bridge, the options that remain are:
For the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, the options that remain are:
Each of the options for the Sarah Mildred Long bridge could be further expanded to include 2 or 4 lane options, options with or without bicycle and/or pedestrian capability.
To make things more complex try to imagine each of the options for one bridge in combination with the options for the other bridge. You can see that this is a complex process.
Some of the options that have been considered and thrown out include closing both bridges, building a new bridge (roughly half way between the two existing bridges), building a tunnel, and establishing ferry service.
The next round of analysis should be done in mid December.
As a result of the inspections being conducted on the Memorial and Sarah Mildred Long bridges, the load limit on the Memorial Bridge has been reduced by 50% to 10 Tons. The major impact of this limitation will be some truck traffic will be diverted, and all fire trucks will be diverted. This will increase the time needed for Kittery and Portsmouth to respond to fires in one another's primary service areas. According to Bob Landry at NH DOT, the limitation will not affect 95% of the traffic on the bridge.
As the condition of the bridges continues to deteriorate, the argument for their repair becomes more clear. One of the major criteria for qualification for TIGER Stimulus funding has to do with the condition of the existing infrastructure. While the bridge is still safe, given the load restrictions, the declining condition makes the case for repair more evident.
During the last few weeks, teams of inspectors have been taking a detailed look at the Memorial and Sarah Mildred Long Bridges to determine their remaining life. According to NH DOT who has been managing the inspection process, there have been no surprises for the Memorial Bridge, yet. The Sarah Mildred Long bridge is another story. In a press release on June 26, Robert Landry from the NH DOT announced the immediate limitation of traffic on the Long Bridge. While not disclosed in the press release, the obvious conclusion is that significant corrosion was noted on the Long Bridge, more than was expected. As a result, until emergency repairs are complete, the traffic on the Long Bridge will be limited to 20 tons. This is the same limitation that is currently on the Memorial Bridge.
The press release indicated that the load limitations would be limited to three weeks, while repairs are completed. Further analysis of the inspectors photographs and measurements indicate that the deterioration is worse than originally thought. At the present time there may be as many as seven of the fixed spans that are affected, rather than the initial indication of only one. This will mean an extended repair cycle. NHDOT is working to better understand the implications of this very preliminary information to see whether the load limits are appropriate during the repair process.
The inspection process is still continuing. The inspectors have taken thousands of photographs of each of the supporting members of the bridges. They have also taken measurements of the decay and the remaining metal in the beams. They now need to review all the photos and measurements, enter the data into complex engineering models, and calculate the effective load characteristics of the bridges. This will take time.
The results of the inspection to date have shown that on one bridge the corrosion is in more than expected. The determination of the remaining life of both bridges will come out of the final report of the inspectors. This is not due until August. Hopefully Maine will have seen the results and will have made their decision concerning Stimulus funding by the end of June.
736 is legislation recently passed by the Maine House and Senate. An amendment
in this bill originally mandated that Maine place an extension of I-95 in
Aroostook county above all other priorities for any and all
transportation funding. Through the efforts of the York County legislators (Dawn Hill in particular), with cooperation from legislators in the Portland area, the bill has been amended to remove the mandatory and emergency language. This bill as currently amended will level the playing field.
Thanks to Dawn Hill and the entire York County delegation.
Jon Carter, Kittery Town Manager, led a delegation to Augusta to educate Maine legislators, DOT Commissioner David Cole and Jane Lincoln, Chief of Staff to Governor John Baldacci. The group included Ben Porter, Susan Tuveson, Helmar and Marsha Herman, Debbie Ronquist, Beth Wheland, Kinley Gregg and Richard Candee. The legislators were treated to Moe's subs for lunch and listened to Ben Porter's presentation on the Bridge crisis. We received support from the legislators and commitment to consider our proposal from the executive branch.