A sound plan for strengthening Maine’s economy and spurring private sector investment must tackle the critical improvements required to bring Maine's transportation infrastructure and communication networks into the 21st century.
BUILDING MAINE’S CONNECTIONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
A sound plan for strengthening Maine’s economy and spurring private sector investment must tackle the critical improvements required to bring Maine's transportation infrastructure and communication networks into the 21st century. Maintaining roads, bridges, and ports ranks high among the most important and traditional functions of state and local government, yet we have underfunded these crucial sectors and limited our ability to compete globally as a result.
The world is global, connected, and competitive. Goods can be sold throughout the world with the click of a button, and skilled employees who want the lifestyle Maine offers can increasingly have their jobs follow them, instead of the other way around.
Broadband is the superhighway of today’s economy. Our businesses can compete globally with reliable, high-speed broadband. If we build it, they will come. Maine people and businesses will be able to compete with anyone, anywhere in the world, and our state will become a magnet for highly skilled and educated workers.
UNLOCK PROSPERITY BY INVESTING IN BROADBAND
Maine needs a governor who realizes that the demand for high-speed internet will only increase; and what constitutes broadband in terms of transmission speed and quality of service is a moving target. To meet Maine’s broadband access challenges, we need to rely on a variety of technologies. That being said, the Hayes Administration will prioritize modern fiber optic connectivity to locally identified anchor institutions (such as hospitals, health centers, business parks, schools and community centers) to meet the ever-increasing demand for faster upload and download speeds.
Terry applauds the accomplishments of communities that have taken steps to close the digital divide and strengthen Maine's economy and infrastructure. Sanford is building a municipal fiber-optic network to connect to 82 anchor institutions and estimates that some businesses will save $500 to $700 per month once the network is up and running. And the joint effort of Calais and Baileyville to connect 87.7 miles with broadband using a “first-mile” model, will not only meet the connectivity needs of existing businesses (including highly skilled employees of Woodland Pulp and St. Croix Tissue who sometimes need to tend to equipment during off hours from their homes), but also grow home businesses and farms and provide more residents with access to needed health care via telemedicine. This project will also jumpstart Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative’s deployment of a smart grid technology.
BE A LEADER AND A PARTNER
Local governments and communities are leading the way to reach this goal by doing the hard, innovative work to bring internet services to their communities. Maine needs a leader in the Blaine House to extend reliable broadband to the entire state.
LEVERAGE PRIVATE-PUBLIC SOURCES
The Hayes Administration will be an active facilitator for local communities to secure affordable broadband for their communities, and will work to optimize private sector investment and drive high speed reliable access. Terry will work with ConnectMe to identify federal grant sources, facilitate access to Federal grant money, and help local communities overcome the bureaucratic challenges involved in applying for and receiving Federal grants.
Terry will also pursue strategies to utilize Maine’s existing fiber infrastructure to help connect communities currently without reliable broadband. She will direct state agencies to explore how existing infrastructure and resources can be used to expand broadband access.
DIG-ONCE: MINIMIZE THE COST OF BUILDING NEEDED INFRASTRUCTURE
The Hayes Administration will make sure our regulatory regime minimizes the cost of building the needed infrastructure by simplifying the regulatory decision-making that delays connecting cable to utility poles and expanding the “dig once” policy to encourage co-location of broadband conduit whenever bridges are replaced to save money. Likewise, our networks should tie into the existing fiber network used as the backbone for many of public schools and libraries as well as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) already operating in Maine and Maine’s advanced fiber-optic network, called the Three-Ring Binder.
IMPROVE CELLULAR CONNECTIONS STATEWIDE
Another priority of the Hayes Administration will be to boost cell coverage. Lack of reliable cell phone service impedes job growth. Topography and dispersed, rural population remain key obstacles slowing build-out. To overcome these obstacles, the ConnectME Authority will serve an important convening and coordinating role to help establish public/private partnerships with telecom providers.
MODERNIZE OUR TRANSPORTATION NETWORK FOR THE LONG TERM
The delays we have created in maintaining our transportation infrastructure puts our public at risk and hurts our pocketbooks. Deficient roads cost Maine motorists a total of $1 billion annually in the form of additional vehicle operating costs, congestion-related delays, and automobile accidents. This is also a matter of safety: 361 (one out of every seven) bridges in Maine are structurally deficient and the percentage of priority 1 and 2 roads rated fair or better declined from 66% in 2014 to 64% in 2015.
FIX IT FIRST
The first step is to fix the infrastructure we already have. Many of our roads and bridges are in need of repair, and we are seeing these problems impact our safety, pocketbook, and our quality of life. We need to work together to devise modern funding streams to provide the money required to make these necessary repairs.
INVEST IN TARGET SERVICE CENTER COMMUNITIES
More than half of Maine people reside in service center communities located in all regions of the state, from Kittery to Fort Kent. Service centers should be priorities for modernization of Maine’s transportation infrastructure. Properly served by infrastructure improvements, these service center communities can be economic game changers for all the surrounding communities.
We need an efficient transportation system that prioritizes choice, mobility, and sustainability. Combined with continued investments in roads, highways, and bridges, Maine also needs a comprehensive transportation strategy that includes cost-effective alternatives to traditional modes of moving people and goods, including infrastructure for electric vehicles, bus and rail service, coordinated regional transportation, bike routes, and sidewalks along existing roads. While local and regional communities will continue to lead local initiatives, the state must be a partner in supporting these projects and should ensure that all systems are well coordinated, connected, and efficient.