The League of Young Voters


What are our priorities, again? — by Christian McNeil
May 20, 2008, 5:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

[Cross-posted from Christian’s blog.]

Back in October of 2007, when I first wrote about the PACTS “high-priority projects,” gasoline was $2.80 a gallon and with generally little interest in possible earmarks for the 2009 federal transportation bill, regional traffic engineers and planners felt comfortable recommending six road and freeway expansion projects among the top eight highest priorities for our region. The list only included one proposal to expand transit service – and that idea (expanding passenger rail service north to Brunswick) ranked at the bottom of the list.

Since then, the price of gas has increased 35%. Gas tax revenues have plummeted because people are driving less. Maine’s roads are riddled with potholes after a harsh winter and the state can’t afford to fix them. And a newly-energized grassroots effort turned out hundreds of people in opposition to stupid ideas like the Gorham Bypass and widening I-295, and in favor of a 21st-century transit infrastructure for the entire state.

In response to these seismic and lasting changes, the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation Study committee has taken the extremely bold step of… not doing anything. Their list of priorities is still top heavy with the same highway projects, and new passenger service is still at the bottom. Other good transit ideas, like retrofitting the bus fleet with wireless beacons so riders can predict arrival and departure times and traffic signals can hold a green light for late buses, or expanding vanpool services to communities like Buxton, Sanford, and the Berwicks, are still way off their radar.

So evidently PACTS still believes that the biggest crises facing transportation in greater Portland are a few minutes of rush-hour congestion on I-295 downtown and on Main Street in Gorham. Well, if anyone out there disagrees, they’ve scheduled three more public forums in suburban communities in the next couple of weeks. First up is a 7 PM forum in Saco City Hall this Thursday, then a meeting in Yarmouth the next Thursday, followed by a forum in Westbrook on Thursday June 5th (details here).

PLEASE FORWARD THIS ANNOUNCEMENT TO ANYONE YOU KNOW IN BIDDEFORD, SACO, KENNEBUNK, SCARBOROUGH, BUXTON, OR OLD ORCHARD BEACH, AND ENCOURAGE THEM TO SPEAK UP FOR NEW AND IMPROVED TRANSIT SERVICE!

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