A broad federal infrastructure investment is needed to give Maine the chance to recover from the pandemic stronger and tackle climate change while providing dividends for decades to come, according to an open letter signed by 74 organizations across Maine.
The diverse range of groups, which represent small businesses, regional chambers of commerce, economic development and social service organizations, unions, municipalities, and other interests, highlighted their top priorities for an infrastructure package, including: eliminating lead in drinking water pipes; bringing high-speed broadband internet to rural Maine; lowering energy costs for homeowners and businesses; improving public transit and repairing roads and bridges; expanding the affordability of electric cars and trucks; promoting energy independence and electrical grid reliability; cleaning up Maine’s rivers, lakes, and ocean waters; redeveloping contaminated sites; and protecting and restoring nature-based infrastructure.
“As Mainers representing a wide range of interests, we urge you to support a federal infrastructure investment plan to create a better future for Maine by creating new jobs, supporting our economy, making our communities healthier, and putting Maine on track to meet our climate goals,” the groups wrote in the letter, which was delivered to Maine’s Congressional delegation.
A website launched today includes the letter and video testimonials from leaders across Maine telling real-world stories of how a broad federal infrastructure investment would benefit Maine people and communities across the state, from Madawaska to York and from Machias to Bethel.
“I am excited about a broad infrastructure plan that will transform our communities for the better,” said Safiya Khalid of Gateway Community Services of Maine and Lewiston City Councilor representing Ward 1. “I am encouraged by the funding for lead mitigation. Lewiston has many old multi-family buildings that were built using lead in paints and water pipes. These buildings now house many low-income and immigrant families with lots of kids, and those kids are regularly being exposed to harmful levels of lead.”
“The prospect of federal infrastructure funding coming to Maine, and especially up in northern Maine, is exciting because we are challenged in ways that our urban centers to our south don’t experience due to geography and proximity to markets, workforce, and tourism,” said Paul Towle of the Aroostook Partnership. “We look forward to the day when our residents, students, and businesses are as connected as urban America, and a modern electric gird enables us to more effectively tap renewable generation sources.”
“Some of our outdated systems don’t work for us anymore. Older Mainers need access to weatherization and home repair services, enhanced public transit options, and new kinds of housing that meet our new needs,” said Jess Maurer of the Maine Council on Aging. “These measures will go a long way toward ensuring older Mainers can continue to live productive, engaged lives, giving back to their communities in a multitude of ways.”
“Climate change has made the traditional view of infrastructure obsolete, and Maine will truly benefit from a fully funded federal infrastructure plan,” said Bill Mook of Mook Sea Farm in Walpole. “A federal infrastructure investment plan shouldn’t just address the symptoms, it should attack the root causes of the things that threaten the future of my business, which includes climate change.”
“Here in Stonington and across Maine, we need to fund projects that make our water infrastructure safer and more functional,” said Bill Shepherd, Water Superintendent for the Town of Stonington. “Water infrastructure expansion is at a standstill right now due to a lack of funding, so we could definitely use the money included in a federal infrastructure plan to expand our system to better serve residents and look for new, safe water sources.”
“GrowSmart Maine supports a federal infrastructure plan that funds smart transportation infrastructure, including a ‘fix it first’ strategy for long-term resilience and improvements for the safety of all users,” said Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine. “These investments must also incentivize ending exclusionary zoning and other harmful land use policies.”
Congress is currently debating the details of a federal infrastructure and jobs plan and is expected to vote on an investment package later this summer. Earlier this year, President Biden introduced his administration’s proposed infrastructure plan, called the American Jobs Plan.
“Congress can’t miss this opportunity to provide states like Maine with the tools and resources they need to create new good-paying jobs, repair aging infrastructure, reduce pollution that harms our health and climate, and expand clean energy development—with focused investment in rural and underserved communities,” said Lisa Pohlmann, CEO of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.