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Rep. MacDonald testifies in support of public-private infrastructure bill

January 25, 2010

AUGUSTA — Rep. Bruce MacDonald’s bill, LD 1639, “An Act To Stimulate the Maine Economy and Promote the Development of Maine’s Priority Transportation Infrastructure Needs,” was presented to the Transportation Committee on Thursday, Jan. 21. Sen. Dennis Damon, D-Hancock, Senate Chair of the Transportation Committee, Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, and representatives of the Maine Better Transportation Association (MBTA) and the Associated General Contractors of Maine also testified in support of the measure.

The bill would allow the Department of Transportation to receive or solicit proposals and enter into agreements with private entities or consortia for the building, operation, ownership, leasing or financing of transportation projects.

“All of you sitting here on this committee know far better than I that there is currently a backlog of billions of dollars in transportation infrastructure needs in the state. The deteriorating condition of our roads and bridges constitutes an ongoing emergency,” said MacDonald. “Meanwhile, the infusion of public funds at adequate levels to meet this emergency is unlikely. Private funding for selected priority projects could alleviate this problem. Such investments would stimulate job growth as well as improve our infrastructure at a time when the need is great and unemployment is high.”

Legislation is needed to clarify explicitly the terms and conditions under which private funds would be invited into public development projects. It is known that willing potential private investors exist, and that the State is in principle willing to become involved in such partnerships. This bill would clarify important elements in such arrangements and make private investment more likely. Examples of clarification needed include contract lengths, operational responsibilities, revenue sharing, and public safety issues. MacDonald believes that, to the extent such issues can be made clear ahead of time, then private investors would be more willing to come forward.

“MBTA would like to thank Rep. MacDonald for taking on a complex issue and for reaching out to many parties and resources to craft the bill before you today,” said John Melrose, representing the MBTA. “With public capital no longer available for even the most worthy initiatives, LD 1639 seeks to create opportunities to attract private capital for transportation investments.”

One example MacDonald gave of a project that might be able to move forward more quickly and with lower cost to Maine taxpayers under his bill is the proposed Route One by-pass in Wiscasset.

A work session on the bill has been scheduled for Friday, Jan. 29 at 9 a.m. before the Transportation Committee, room 126 of the State House.

Contact:

Rep. Bruce MacDonald, 633-0570
Andy Roth-Wells, Legislative Aide, 287-1430
Jodi Quintero, Communications Director, 287-1433