Opinion

Increasing safety and efficiency of Route 1 in northern Maine

When large trucks travel down Main Street in Presque Isle, they currently must pass by 147 commercial or residential driveways, 25 street intersections, 12 crosswalks, nine stoplights, and one railroad crossing.  This route can create safety hazards for other vehicles and pedestrians.  It also results in increased emissions and pollution from trucks idling at intersections.

 The Presque Isle bypass was designed to address these issues.  In 2019, the first 1.7-mile section of this roadway opened, helping to divert large trucks from downtown streets and reduce truck traffic at five known high-crash locations.  But the full benefits of the bypass have not yet been fully achieved.  Once the bypass is complete, truckers will be able to arrive at their destinations more quickly, and residents will be able to reach local businesses more safely and easily. 

As a leader of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I recently secured a $44.1 million grant for the Maine Department of Transportation to build the second phase of the bypass.  This project entails the construction of a 6.3-mile, two-lane road that will connect U.S. Route 1 south of the city to the current bypass section already in service.  It will also include a new interchange at U.S. Route 1 and Conant Road; truck climbing lanes; four new overpasses to grade separate the bypass from Henderson Road, Easton Road, Conant Road, and the rail line; box culverts; and multiuse trail crossings at Conant Road and Henderson Road.

 This grant was made possible through the funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that Congress passed last year.  I was one of 10 Senators who negotiated the infrastructure package, which is making a real difference for rural states like Maine.  The law represents the most significant investment in American infrastructure since the establishment of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s.

 Given the large backlog of transportation projects across the country, the competition for this U.S. Department of Transportation grant program was intense.  In fact, when Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called to inform me that the Presque Isle project had been selected, he said that a total of $26 billion had been requested, yet only $1.5 billion was awarded.  Nevertheless, Maine fared better than most states.  Out of more than 260 applications nationwide, only 26 grants were awarded nationally, and Maine is receiving two of these grants. 

 In addition to the Presque Isle project, Maine will receive $33 million to rehabilitate 68 miles of U.S. Route 1 between Machias and Calais.  The reconstruction will include widening shoulders, replacing drainage structures, and making safety enhancements such as installing new guardrails and rumble strips.  These measures are intended to significantly reduce the number of lane departure crashes, which are a known problem in this corridor.  The improved roadway will strengthen connections between communities, better facilitate recreational travel along the newly designated Bold Coast Scenic Byway and Bikeway, and increase the efficiency of freight movement given the proximity to an international land border and seaport.

 Whether it is through the heart of Presque Isle or along the Downeast coast, U.S. Route 1 is a vital transportation corridor that many Mainers rely on every day to get to work, go to school, and access health care and other essential services.  I strongly advocated for these projects, which will enhance Maine’s transportation system in Aroostook and Washington counties, preserve and create jobs, and deliver direct benefits to families and businesses. 

 My priority has long been to improve our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and ensure that Maine’s needs are met.  In previous rounds of funding through this grant program, I have successfully championed $36 million toward the replacement of the Madawaska International Bridge, $38 million for the replacement of seven deteriorated bridges, and $45 million to rehabilitate 14 deteriorated bridges.  Since 2009, when I became a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have worked to secure more than $925 million in competitive transportation grants for the State of Maine. 

 Federal grants are a critical component of funding for Maine’s transportation needs.  I will continue to work with State and local leaders to keep Maine on the move.

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