An existing Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) funding practice requiring Maine’s larger communities to contribute up to 15% of the cost of state principal arterial, minor arterial and major collector road construction projects received scrutiny last session when two bills addressing the issue were submitted to the Legislature.  Although the bills provided the Legislature with the opportunity to articulate a position on the existing MDOT practice, the Transportation Committee instead killed both bills and decided to extend the practice of delegating revenue-raising authority to MDOT.  Specifically, the Committee instructed the Department to work with municipalities to create a new cost-sharing practice that treats all municipalities equitably. 

       As a result of the Committee directive, representatives from the Maine Municipal Association, Maine Service Centers Coalition and MDOT have developed a proposed two-tiered state/local funding policy for state arterial and major collector road projects.

       The first tier of the policy requires 100% state funding of the “core” project.  The core project is defined as the improvements made curb-to-curb or ditch-to-ditch to the highway infrastructure.  Within those parameters, no municipal share is required. 

       The second tier of the policy requires a state/local cost share on project “amenities” (e.g., sidewalks, walking and bike paths, aesthetic curbing, plantings, landscaping, furniture, etc.) outside of the core project.    Although a local share is required, the inclusion of amenities in any state road project is solely at the discretion of the municipality.  Through its choices on amenities, a municipality can limit or even eliminate its financial exposure on these state projects. 

       There are two thresholds limiting the state’s funding for locally approved amenities.

       The state’s financial exposure is first limited through the adoption of a schedule that details the state/local cost share ratio for each type or category of “amenity”.  The MDOT-developed cost share ratios (below) are based on the amenity’s relative regional or local benefit.  Amenities with greater regional benefit, such as safety features, leverage a higher level of state funds then those amenities perceived to have a primarily local benefit, such as new ornamental lighting.  

State / Local Amenity Cost Share Ratios Schedule

      % Share
                         Amenity                    State   Municipal
   
Replacement of existing sidewalks.           90 10
   
Plantings/landscaping for traffic calming or safety.        80 20
   
Upgrade to existing sidewalks/ornamental lighting.      50 50
   
New sidewalks, trails and other bike/pedestrian facilities.   50 50
   
Design charettes. 50 50
   
Aesthetic planting, landscaping and furniture.        20 80
   
Auxiliary lanes, jug handles, etc. to accommodate growth.         20 80
   
Alternative pavement or shoulder treatments.       20 80
   
Underground or modified utility placement.      20 80
   
Additional or modified parking. 20 80
   
Aesthetic curbing, concrete pavement.                20 80
   
Architectural treatments.        10 90

       In addition to the limits set by the state/local cost share ratios, there is also a cap on the state’s share of amenity funding.  This second threshold limits a municipality’s ability to leverage state support for amenities.  As proposed, municipalities can leverage state funds for a package of amenities up to 7.5% of the total core-plus-amenities cost of the project.   For example, if the total core and amenities cost of a project is $1 million, municipalities can leverage state funds for amenities until the municipality’s total share reaches $75,000.  Once a municipality reaches the maximum, the municipality must fund 100% of additional amenity costs.

       Although the proposal is a good start, we believe that some adjustments, particularly to the cost share ratios, may be necessary.  If you have any suggestions on how to improve this proposal, please contact Kate Dufour at 1-800-452-8786 or kdufour@memun.org.  Your feedback is appreciated.