Memorial Bridge Funding in Danger
Saturday, February 19, 2011 — This just in from Ben Porter at SaveOurBridges.com:
Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution to continue funding the U.S. Government for the balance of this fiscal year. Missing from this continuing resolution was the funding for the TIGER Stimulus Grants that would have provided $20 million for the Memorial Bridge replacement project.* This puts the project in jeopardy. There are several things that we can do to reinforce the importance of this critical infrastructure investment project. This note summarizes what can be done, and the critical timing of getting it done.
There are two parallel efforts that are required at this time. One is at the State level, and the other at the Federal level. At the State level, we are working towards a deadline, March 4th. At the Federal level, we have a chance to re-approve the funding, but that must also be done by March 4th.
At the State level, both Maine and New Hampshire need to file “Letters of Intent” with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood. These letters provide an additional level of commitment to the project. Both states need to file the letters since the bridge is jointly owned by both states. In Maine, Governor LePage may be able to sign the letter on his own, but it may require legislative action as well. In New Hampshire, the same is true. If both of these letters of intent are delivered prior to the March 4th deadline, then Secretary LaHood could “obligate” the funds prior to the new continuing resolution taking effect. “Obligating” the funds means that the money is in the budget without regard to the Continuing Resolution.
At the federal level, it gets a bit more complex. The House of Representatives has passed the continuing resolution that excludes funding for TIGER projects. The resolution now goes to the Senate. Senators Collins and Snowe in Maine are prepared to introduce amendments to the House version of the resolution that would add these critical TIGER funds back into the budget. If the amendment is accepted, and the resulting resolution is passed by the Senate, then the two versions of the Continuing Resolution would go a Conference Committee to resolve the discrepancies between the House and the Senate versions. In a Conference Committee, the Senate will be represented by Senator Collins, among others. If the final Continuing Resolution includes the TIGER funding, then the Letter of Intent mentioned above is still required, but is less “time-critical”.
What can you do? Get in touch with Governor LePage or Governor Lynch. Let them know about the critical need for the Letter of Intent. The Senators from Maine are on board. New Hampshire residents need to contact their Senators [Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen] to get them on board as well.
* The following press release was issued by Sen. Collins’ office and passed on to us by Ben Porter:
House Passes Bill That Would Eliminate Funding For Northern Maine Rail, Memorial Bridge Projects
Senator Collins contacts Transportation Secretary; Vows to Fight to Retain Funding for Maine Transportation Projects
WASHINGTON, D.C.–U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Transportation Appropriations subcommittee, spoke with Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, to request that he expedite the release of $30.5 million in TIGER grant funds for bridge and rail improvements in Maine.
In October 2010, at Senator Collins’ request, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded Maine $10.5 million for upgrades and improvements to 233-miles of rail line serving Aroostook and northern Penobscot Counties. The state purchased this line after it was proposed for abandonment by Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway. At that same time, DOT awarded Maine and New Hampshire $20 million toward the cost of replacing Memorial Bridge in Kittery. Unfortunately, early today, the House of Representatives passed a federal funding bill that includes language that would eliminate certain grant funds for transportation infrastructure projects. This language could result in Maine losing this rail and bridge funding if those funds are not released by the date of the bill’s enactment.
Recognizing that Maine stands to lose vital transportation funds, Senator Collins contacted Secretary LaHood and requested that he work with local and state stakeholders to expedite the release of these funds.
“It’s unfortunate that the House never considered an amendment that would have helped protect funding for the northern Maine rail line and the Memorial Bridge projects. These are important infrastructure projects that are crucial to the flow of goods and services in Maine and for keeping and attracting new jobs to our State,” Senator Collins said. “I will continue to ask that the Secretary cut through the bureaucratic red tape that is impeding the release of these important TIGER funds. The State of Maine and private investors are committing resources for these projects; the federal government should provide the resources it promised in October.”