Monday, January 05, 2009

The Infrastructure Blues

Just before Christmas, the Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its 2008 Infrastructure Report Card. The report covers fourteen aspects of Maine infrastructure, from roads to ports to parks to wastewater treatment, and more. The grading scale goes from 'A' (exceptional) to 'D' (poor). There is no 'F' rating. As anyone who lives here could have guessed, the results for Maine were not good.

Maine received 'D' or 'D+' grades in five of the fourteen categories: Contaminated Site Remediation, Dams, Municipal Wastewater, Bridges, and Roads. (The overall grade for the state was a 'C-', just barely above poor.) A simpler way of looking at this is that, according to the ASCE at least, one-third of the state's infrastructure is failing.

This report only underscores my observation that Maine has the worst roads I've ever driven. Only the Interstates and the tourist-heavy coastal Route 1 approach any state of driver- or car-friendliness, by my experience. (By ASCE standards, only the Maine Interstate meets any kind of 'good' condition.) In addition, a closer look at the report reveals that Mainers spend on average 285 extra dollars per year on "extra vehicle operating costs," amounting to $286 million statewide. (No wonder my mechanic is the happiest Mainer I've ever met.)

What will it take to get things to change? A massive bridge collapse like the I-35 in Minneapolis? Let's hope not. Will Obama's proposed infrastructure cash infusion help? It couldn't hurt, and Maine obviously desperately needs it. But it'll come a little too late to save me money: I'm having new struts put on my car this week. One week into the new year and I'll be over the $285 dollar average. I can't wait to see what the next fifty-one weeks will bring.