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This is Governor John Baldacci.

Springtime is officially here…finally! Plants will soon start growing, the ground will soften, and road construction season will begin.

While construction on the roads and bridges may cause some delays for our motorists, please keep in mind that it also represents thousands of Mainers working on the very infrastructure that our businesses and residents and tourists rely on everyday to transport themselves and goods throughout the State.

The economy is suffering. That’s nothing that I need to tell you, you know it yourselves, and it’s not only here in Maine, but it’s also nationally and globally. However, despite those difficult financial times around the world, it is important to continue to invest in our people and our State to grow out of this recession.

A few days ago, the Maine Department of Transportation submitted to the Transportation Committee and to the Maine Legislature the Work Plan for the next two years. The hundreds of projects included in this program will provide yet another major injection of money into our economy and more long-term benefits for our state.

The Maine Department of Transportation’s upcoming 2-year Work Plan includes $809 million in capital projects and over $61 million in transit operating support.

The Highway and Bridge projects in the Work Plan alone can be expected to create or preserve more than 15,600 jobs.

Included in the plan are multimodal projects, including investments in passenger and freight rail, transit projects, and bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Rail and cargo development is an important part of the vision to expand our economic development opportunities.

These investments will transform the state, enabling better and more affordable options for businesses and families and individuals. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ensure a long-term, more effective use of our resources.

The new Work Plan will be funded by formula funds from the federal government, base funding from Maine’s Highway Fund, federal GARVEE-instrument funding, state TransCap Bridge and Highway Program funds, and a significant transportation bond that I have proposed.

That bond package builds on the investments from the Recovery Act. The bond package would fund $75 million for highways and bridges, and another $53 million for rail, ports, transit and trails.

The importance of investing in our critical infrastructure cannot be understated.

I have traveled to every part of this State and I have talked to many businesspeople.

Time and time again, when I ask them about the challenges they face, one of the first two answers I hear is Transportation Costs; the other is the high cost of energy. And in our State, they are both one in the same.

Just two weeks ago, Verso Paper came to the State House to deliver a report on the most pressing challenges facing the paper industry in Maine.

They told me that the survival of this industry in Maine is - in part - dependent on addressing the high cost and inefficiency of our present transportation infrastructure.

We need to make investments to improve the movement of goods and people.

This is about Maine’s economy now and into the future.

It’s about our ability to compete globally – obtaining access to international markets and sending our goods out to all reaches of the globe.

It’s about retaining our businesses and jobs, and attracting new ones.

As a state, we have passed a 4-year bridge program, targeted highway reconstruction programs, we’re moving to extend the Downeaster from Portland, connections to Boston, to Brunswick, and further to Midcoast and the Rockland Branch.

We’ve laid the groundwork for future economic growth and prosperity, and at the same time invested in quality-of-life in our state.

But we also need to have a strong federal partner.

And with the passage of the Recovery Act, and the pivotal leadership from our own congressional delegation, we are beginning to help address the most pressing transportation needs and get people back to work immediately.

The $143 million dollars of Recovery Act funds for highway and bridges, combined with other funding components of DOT’s current Work Plan will preserve or create 11,000 jobs this spring, summer and fall.

And what Maine needs most now is jobs and economic development, and this investment package will help bring those jobs to those who need them the most.

We all know more needs to be done.

But the Recovery Funds are beginning to put people to work now. The Maine DOT’s Work Plan will go through the legislative process, and I want to point out and appreciate the support of Maine Better Transportation Association, the Maine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and others who have expressed the support for this bond package.

I know that our State and nation are facing difficult times. But we must work hard to make tough decisions and balance our budget – tightening our belts – but also planning for the future and making sound investments so that our people and our businesses can grow and prosper.

Thank you for listening and have a great weekend.

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