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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How will priorities be set for this study? Who makes the final decision? Does the public get to vote? Whose ideas move forward and how is that determined? (07/09/2009)

A. Public outreach for transportation studies or projects is not designed to be a voting process. The Departments of Transportation strive very hard to achieve general agreement for a solution, but a public vote would indicate that it is the public who is responsible for the decision, and legally the authority and the responsibility for the decision lies with the state transportation agencies.

The Purpose and Need Statement, a draft of which is being developed now with input from the Steering and Stakeholder Committees, will define what the public wants the outcome of the Connections Study to be. It should not define the solution, as there is usually more than one way to achieve the desired outcome, but it should clearly indicate what the solution should achieve. From the guidelines provided by the Purpose and Need Statement, the study team will develop a Fatal Flaw Analysis process, which will provide the rationale for taking solutions off the table that do not meet Purpose and Need, such as rowboats carrying passengers across the river (bad for business) or building a tunnel (potentially bad for neighborhoods and the environment, definitely bad for the taxpayers' pocketbooks).

The public can offer input on the Purpose and Need Statement at the August 20 public meeting; the Fatal Flaw Analysis will be outlined and discussed during the September Public and Stakeholder meetings.

Once the Fatal Flaw Analysis is completed, we will be left with a handful of solutions that generally meet Purpose and Need. This will take place by the end of the year, with concurrent public and committee input. Starting in January, the study team will perform a more refined analysis of the remaining solutions. This is where an economic analysis will have significant weight. And it is also here that we will be challenging folks' thinking, as we will not want to take suppositions and opinions at face value. At the end, the most balanced solution is usually - but not always - clear. It may not make everyone happy, since different people have different values. But it is the fairest process we can devise.

Q. Why is this study being done?

A. The Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) and the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NH DOT) are conducting the ME-NH Connections Study to identify feasible river-crossing options and select the one(s) that best addresses the long-term transportation needs of Kittery and Portsmouth. There are no predetermined outcomes for this study.

Q. How can there be no predetermined outcome?

A. The purpose of the study is to look at all possible alternatives and use the data gathered during the study to factually determine what the outcome of each alternative would be – in terms of traffic, neighborhoods, economics, environment, land use, multi-modal opportunities, cost, etc. The first step at winnowing down this list will take place this fall as we apply the Fatal Flaw Analysis to each alternative and determine which ones are feasible based on positive vs. negative outcomes, as well as cost.

Q. Is the possibility of eliminating a bridge going to be evaluated?

A. Yes, that will likely be on the list of alternatives to be evaluated.

Q. How is pedestrian and bicycle access going to be accommodated if Memorial Bridge is closed?

A. The study process will determine how best to address long-term bicycle and pedestrian needs, as well as the needs of other modes of travel. Maintaining bike/pedestrian access is an important goal.

Q. The Memorial Bridge is historic; how can you consider closing it?

A. We are working closely with both Maine and New Hampshire State Preservation Officers on that question. Historical resources are protected by federal laws that seek to avoid doing harm unless there is no "prudent and feasible alternative" to doing so. Any changes to either of the two bridges – Memorial or Sarah Long – would need to comply with these laws.

Q. How can you measure traffic now if there is ongoing construction?

A. We will adjust the numbers as needed using standard traffic methodologies and historical data. Additionally, we will follow up our traffic, bicycle, and pedestrian counts later in the season to make further adjustments if needed.

Q. Why are we hurrying this study?

A. We have about a two-year period in which to decide on a course of action and the study will take about 15 months to complete.

Q. How much time does the Memorial Bridge have?

A. Current estimates are between two and five years. By the August public meeting we will have completed an update of the Memorial Bridge’s inspection and have the results of the Sarah Long Bridge’s inspection and will have a better answer for you.

Q. What is the BICA study and what is its outcome?

A. BICA is the Bridge Inspection and Cost Analysis and it is being led by NHDOT. BICA includes detailed inspections of the Memorial and Sarah Long bridges and also will establish and update cost estimates for repairing and replacing the bridges. Its outcome will provide us with accurate information of the bridge’s condition and life expectancy, as well as updated cost information.

Q. Why is the study so expensive? Why does it take so long?

A. This study is a fraction of the cost of any kind of rehabilitation or new construction, and will allow us to make informed long-term decisions for these river crossings. It will take about 15 months, which is significantly less time than would normally be needed for a study of this type. Detailed bridge inspections and peak summer travel periods to a degree are defining the timelines required for the two co-dependent efforts.

Q. Why don’t you just re-bid the Memorial Bridge? Construction prices have dropped 30% since last year.

A. Much of the work involved in rehabilitating the Memorial Bridge is highly specialized and also required special order items, such as the lift mechanisms. A very small number of area contractors – two - were able to do this type of work, which tends to make the bid process less competitive. While steel prices have lowered and stabilized since last year, the nature of this rehabilitation means that the price would not be likely to be significantly lower.

Q. You know what you need to do – why are you wasting money that could go towards improvements?

A. This study will be a fraction of the cost of any kind of rehabilitation or new construction, and will allow us to make informed long-term decisions for these river crossings. It will also help ensure that we met the long-term transportation needs of the area. The annual operating and maintenance costs alone for each bridge are now over $1.0 M per year, so we need to ensure that we make the right decision before we move forward with what will likely be an expenditure of over $100 M, whether that is for rehabilitation or reconstruction of the bridges.

Q. Will a high level option be considered?

A. High level, or fixed, bridge options will likely be one of the options on the list of possible alternatives. Intermediate level bridges that might not open so frequently as the current bridges do may also be considered.

Q. What is the Fatal Flaw Analysis and its criteria?

A. The Fatal Flaw Analysis (FFA) is the method by which we will take alternatives that are not feasible off the table from further consideration. It will be a combination of criteria that includes such questions as:

  • Would this alternative meet the traffic volume needs of the communities now and in 2035? (the design year)
  • Would this alternative meet the bicycle and pedestrian needs of the communities now and in 2035?
  • Would this alternative provide significant annual cost savings?
  • How would this alternative affect the navigational needs of the Piscatiqua River (industrial, recreational, etc.)?
  • What effect would this alternative have on neighborhoods located in the study area?
  • What effect would this alternative have on the economy of the communities in the study area?
  • What effect would this alternative have on the socio-economic aspects of the area (historic, business, etc.)?
  • More detail on this analysis – and the ability to provide feedback – will be available at the next two meetings, in August and in September. We will then apply the FFA to all the alternatives and come back to you in December with the result – again, subject to your feedback.

Q. Is a new bridge on a new alignment going to be considered?

A. That will likely be one of the options on the list of possible alternatives.

Q. Will you evaluate the economic impacts of closing a bridge? How?

A. Yes, we will do a detailed economic analysis of all the alternatives that survive the Fatal Flaw analysis. We will be working with the area Chambers of Commerce and other economically oriented groups - as well as the Steering and Stakeholder Committees - to help us evaluate our data and analysis.

Q. What are Maine’s other stimulus priorities? I read something about extending I-95.

A. Maine’s Legislative Transportation Committee has unanimously approved the expansion of I-95 north of Houlton as something to consider. The Veteran’s Memorial Bridge in Portland, a major connection over the Fore River that carries 24,000 vehicles a day, also needs to be replaced. Many other candidates are being identified by the Legislature, Maine's Congressional delegation and others.

Q. Who is responsible for maintaining the facilities? Is this likely to change?

A. The maintenance costs are split evenly between Maine and New Hampshire, and always have been. New Hampshire is responsible for overseeing the physical maintenance of the bridges.

Q. How will my business be impacted?

A. That will depend on the final outcome and we will do a full analysis before we make a decision. The range is everything from not at all to a positive or a negative outcome.

Q. When will a decision be made? What happens and what is the time frame?

A. A decision on an action plan will be made in June 2010. The time frame depends on what the decision is. By that time, we will have a more precise knowledge of the condition of the two bridges. All comments received will be considered, and all substantive comments will be addressed as part of this process.

Q. What happens if I disagree with the decision?

A. We are sure that no matter what decision is made, there will be some who will disagree. Our goal is for everyone to understand the process, help guide us through the decision-making process, and to understand the reasons behind the decision.

Q. Who ultimately makes the decision? How will we be involved?

A. The two DOTs will make the decision, based on what is learned during this process, with input from the public, stakeholders, and government agencies. All comments received will be considered and all substantive comments received will be addressed in our decision-making.

Q. Who is on the Steering Committee, and what is its purpose?

A. The Steering Committee is made up of representatives from Maine and New Hampshire DOTs, Maine and New Hampshire Federal Highway Administration, Maine and New Hampshire Historic Preservation Officers, Town of Kittery, City of Portsmouth, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Pan Am Railways and, as resources, the Rockingham County Planning Commission and Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission. Its purpose is to provide overall direction for the study as it progresses.

Q. Who is on the Stakeholder Committee, and what is its purpose?

A. The Stakeholder Committee provides a broad-based spectrum of viewpoints and helps to provide insight and guidance around public concerns. The Stakeholder Committee will include members from the following groups and organizations:

  • Historic
  • Business
  • Conservation
  • Bicycle
  • Pedestrian
  • Rail
  • Ports and Harbor
  • Community/Neighborhood
  • Emergency Rescue/Police/Fire
  • Tribes
  • Consulting Organizations
  • Others to be determined

 

This page last updated on 4/28/11