How the Biden Administration Changed the Department of Transportation Power Structure Locally
In my local community on the Boothbay Peninsula of Maine, the leaders and many other people are in an uproar because for years the Maine Department of Transportation hasn’t paved Route 27, a long and winding country road that veers off of Route One and leads to the communities of Edgecomb, Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, and Southport.
Last year many side roads, back roads, and interconnecting roads were paved but the main road leading into the Boothbay Community was not. On the other side of Boothbay Harbor, Route 96 was paved from East Boothbay to Ocean Point but the small stretch of road from East Boothbay to Boothbay Harbor remains a rumble road.
Speculatively, this issue can be understood in the context of the balance of power. The Department of Transportation is a subsidiary of Maine Gov. Its web address is https://www.maine.gov/mdot. It’s governed by the distribution of wealth coming down from the federal government and laterally by public-private relationships, and of course the Maine taxpayer. Taking an educated guess, that translates as a balance of power between the Legislature that writes the funding rules and the administrative branch that oversees the work that needs to be done.
The last time I read the Maine DOT rules was when the roundabout was being constructed. Then it was governed by rules which prioritized communities with money (private developers) over communities with the most need (such as roads that are so badly in need of paving that the roads have become dangerous). That pay-to-play funding system grants the private developer inordinate power to control community character and even road infrastructure design over the administrative authority of the Maine DOT.
There is a commonly held consensus that there was no reason to place a roundabout in the middle of the otherwise unobstructed main thruway where the speed limit was thirty miles an hour, except for the private developers will to make his golf course the central feature of the town center. The four-million-dollar DOT project involved moving a four-way stop that was off to the side in a low-traffic stream and placing it in the middle of the high traffic stream…