FOR WHOM THE ROADS TOLL Maine motorists are paying for shoddy roads in more ways than bumpy rides.
Anyone driving on Route 175 in Brooksville, Benton Neck Road between Benton and Fairfield, or a host of other atrocious avenues knows that Maine roads are not the way roads should be.
In fact, you might say that all Maine’s byways are really hidden toll roads. That’s because it costs each and every driver $282 per year in car wear and tear to maneuver your way around the state. The total annual bill for Maine motorists adds up to a whopping $263 million. At least that’s what a recent study from the Maine Development Foundation (MDF), a nonprofit tasked with looking at long-term development in the state, says.
Our propensity toward sporadic frosts and thaws leaves our roads riddled with problems. That’s where the state steps in and paves over those pesky potholes.
But this year — and for the foreseeable future, according to Herb Thompson, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation — the state’s in a bind.
“We have a tremendous shortfall in transportation funding and funding for highways and bridges specifically,” says Thompson. Just how deep of a rut — or maybe the better term is pothole — are we in? “We’ve looked ahead and there’s approximately a three and a half billion dollar need over and above the anticipated funding for our transportation system to keep it in good repair and serviceable condition.”
Ed Cervone, program director for the Maine Development Foundation, thinks that not only will our roads be in worse condition, but our businesses will be, too. “So much of our travel and commerce is done on the roads here,” says Cervone, “something like 85 percent. Roads are critical to [Maine] business.”
The MDF’s study presents a whole host of other arguments for investing in our roads. Top among them: Maine lives. As many as sixty-five traffic deaths per year on Maine’s highways may be caused by the poor condition of our roads.
“We wouldn’t dispute the findings of this study,” says Thompson. “A lot of needs remain unmet, and we’re continually in the hunt for finding solutions and working with the legislature to address these problems.”
In the meantime, Mainers better fasten their seatbelts; we’re all in for a long, bumpy ride.
A ROGUISH TOUCH L.L. Bean taps a Maine hipster for its new line of clothing.
For nearly a century the L.L. Bean brand has stood for many things, chief among them reliability (who doesn’t have a Bean bag in the house?), responsibility (ask anyone in Freeport if there is a better community partner), and a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Now the company that got its start selling odd, gum-soled hunting boots wants to add style to its billion-dollar brand. To do so it’s enlisted the help of one of Portland’s hottest young designers.
Alex Carleton, founder of Rogues Gallery on Wharf Street and selected by GQ as one of the top designers in the United States, will spearhead Bean’s new “signature” line, set to debut in March. But don’t expect Carleton to bring his full suite of brooding designs — which masterfully toe the line somewhere between grunge and washed-up pirate — into Bean’s preppy world of plaid and pastels. Instead, the forty-year-old designer, who designed men’s and children’s clothing for Bean’s six years ago before branching out on his own, says his new line will be an evolution of the traditional sportswear that has made the Freeport retailer an icon. “We’re not looking to revolutionize the American sportswear lexicon, we’re looking at taking great American staples and great American icons and building upon those ideas,” Carleton explains. “We’re going with a more tailored fit and we’re emphasizing versatility, so we’ll have a lot of styles that you can dress up. Rather than it being a departure from L.L. Bean, it’s sort of an extension of L.L. Bean, a fresh perspective.”
The full line, which Carleton says will include head-to-toe styles, footwear, and accessories, has not been announced, but Carleton says it will include such items as linen jackets and plaid shirts for men and a madras shirtdress for women.
No word yet on whether the shirtdress will match your hunting boots.
DEATHMATCH: TURKEY VS. TICK Bloodsucking bugs meet their feathered match.
Disease-carrying ticks are on the rise in Maine, and the state’s residents and pet owners alike have recently been inundated with a flurry of tick-prevention advice and products. The goal is to avoid Lyme disease, which has increased sharply in animals and humans in Maine over the past few years, along with a handful of other tick-borne illnesses that have popped up in the state. The advice ranges from administering Frontline to furry friends to completing rigorous inspections of clothes and skin after a walk in the woods. But you probably haven’t been told by your local vet to seek out a flock of wild turkeys.
It turns out that Maine’s approximately fifty thousand turkeys (up from a mere forty-one in 1978 thanks to a successful reintroduction of the extirpated species) are tick eaters, with the potential to eat up two hundred bloodsucking bugs a day.
That’s not to say turkeys are tickbusters. “Turkeys in Maine don’t keep the [overall] population of ticks down,” explains the state’s migratory and upland game bird biologist, Kelsey Sullivan. “But if you have a flock of fifty birds always around your yard, they could potentially have an effect on the number of ticks.”
You see, turkeys will eat just about anything they can, well, gobble up. Insects, foliage, seeds, strawberries — you name it, they eat it. Ticks included.
“Turkeys are not searching ticks out,” says James Dill, the pest management specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “They wouldn’t be like, ‘Oooh, there’s a tick.’ ”
But ticks do put themselves in a rather vulnerable position to the foraging fowl. “Ticks have a tendency to do what we call ‘questing,’ ” says Dill. “They get on the end of a blade of grass, hold on with six legs, and then wave their front legs back and forth so when an animal comes by, they grab on.” In other words, Dill says “ticks pretty much stick right out there like a sore thumb and a good meal.”
Perhaps this Thanksgiving, we should give thanks for our bird’s wild cousins. Long may they dine.
AN ENLIGHTENED LAW The Pine Tree State leads the nation in light bulb recycling.
The proverbial light bulb went on in Maine this past summer. The Pine Tree State was the first state in the nation to institute a manufacturer-based light bulb recycling law.
After national legislation was passed to start phasing out incandescent light bulbs in 2012 for the more efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (with a total transition expected by 2014), Maine decided to proactively pass a law requiring that light bulb manufacturers facilitate recycling of their own products.
The disposal of CFLs is a controversial issue because it’s not as simple as throwing the used bulb in the garbage. If you do that, the mercury inside the glass either escapes as air vapor or leaches into the ground and gets into soil and groundwater.
The new law “takes the responsibility for managing the hazardous substances away from the environment and our public health,” says Matt Prindiville, the toxic projects director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “It takes those costs [now] being borne by the local governments and transfers those costs to the manufacturers. It also puts the incentive in their court to use less toxic materials.” For Mainers it means a safe, effective, and free method of recycling the bulbs. Currently, towns foot the bill, the majority of which pass it along to residents through a dollar charge to dispose of each bulb.
The National Resources Council of Maine, which endorsed the bill, sees the new law as coming just in time.
“Our feeling was that this is the only mercury-containing product that is actually growing [in use] rather than declining,” says Prindiville. “We want people to be using [CFLs] for the energy savings and the cost savings, but we just want to make sure they have a free and convenient way to dispose of them.”
The law has many precedents here. In 2004, Maine was the first state to pass a computer and television recycling law, when those toxic machines were routinely being dumped — mercury, lead, beryllium, and all — into landfills. Since then, Maine has passed similar legislation to safely dispose of old cell phones and mercury thermostats.
Other states have followed suit. “Maine has been a national leader,” says Prindiville. One might say Maine is shedding some much-needed light on the importance of safe toxic waste disposal.
HOLLYWOOD EAST? A new movie studio in Portland hopes to compete with Tinseltown.
Build it and they will come. That’s the hope of a Portland-based group who has secured a 43,000-square-foot building on Presumpscot Street for use as a film studio.
Wasted Minds Media Group hopes that the space, formerly a warehouse used by beer and wine distributor Nappi, will soon house movie sets, editing studios, and even office space for groups like the Maine Film Office. The Nappi family has donated the first year of the lease to the group as a way to get the venture off the ground, and John E. Seymore, chief operating officer of Wasted Minds (the name indicates a belief that too many young minds are being wasted and could be put to better use), says the space is available for everything from television commercials to feature films. “Hopefully this facility will be a catalyst for how an industry can be viable in Maine,” Seymore declares. “We want to become the hub of film in the state.”
Already the group has enticed the Maine Film Office to open a part-time office at the site (the state agency, which advocates for more generous film incentives in Maine, has its primary location in Augusta). Just days after rolling out the red carpet this summer, the studio was the setting for two television pilots. Five full-time employees are currently assisting Seymore with running the new studio, which soon will be operated by a nonprofit co-op. There are even plans for an eighty-five-seat, on-site theater for screenings.
The Arkansas-born Seymore says he believes that Maine’s attraction as a movie location will one day attract major producers to the state. A published author, screenwriter, director, and producer, whose films include Cube Ghouls and Buzzkill, Seymore focuses on developing projects for the new studio and expanding awareness of Maine’s potential as a film setting. “I’m still trying to find something that I don’t love about Maine,” he remarks. “You couldn’t pry me out of this state.”