Question 1 on the Nov. 5 ballot is a $105 million bond “to build or improve roads, bridges, railroads, airports, transit and ports and make other transportation investments.” Critically necessary, the bond would leverage an estimated $137 million in federal and other funds.
The transportation bond was the only surviving piece of the $239 million bond package originally floated by Governor Janet Mills earlier this year to make it to the November ballot. Republican and Democratic legislators are united on at least this one issue: Maine roads are in need of some serious work. Certainly much more than $105 million will cover.
The bulk of the borrowed sum — $85 million — would be spent on constructing, reconstructing or rehabilitating prioritized state highways; replacing and rehabilitating bridges and repairing secondary roads in partnership with municipalities. Municipal officials will take all the help they can get.
City Council Chairman Marc Blanchette was quoted in the Oct. 17 issue of The Ellsworth American as saying he has met with the Department of Transportation three times regarding reconstruction of Oak Street. The heavily trafficked road connects High Street to State Street and carries local traffic and drivers bound for Bangor, Bar Harbor and points beyond. DOT officials agree the road needs fixing, Blanchette said, “but I also run into a wall, you have to wait, you have to wait, you have to wait.”
The wall is almost always funding. The transportation bond is unlikely to move the dial on the overall backlog of construction needs, but it will help the DOT carry on as planned with priority projects. The bond — which will cost taxpayers an estimated $28.9 million in interest — should be a stopgap as the state works toward properly funding road work within the budget.
Question 2 is a proposed amendment to the state constitution allowing people who have disabilities that prevent them from signing their own names to sign a citizens’ initiative or people’s veto petition in an alternative manner. The alternative manner will be set by statute. Maine election law already permits a voter who is unable to sign his or her name to sign a voter registration application and certain other forms by using a signature stamp or by authorizing another voter to sign on the voter’s behalf while the voter is present. The constitutional amendment rightly removes an unnecessary impediment to disabled Mainers further exercising their civic rights.