Grant for nearly $450,000 goes to Maine transportation studies

Posted on July 5, 2022 | News

Carly D’Eon, News Center Maine

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The funds will help to address transportation accessibility issues in two counties.

MAINE, USA — One of the biggest challenges Maine’s most rural communities face is a lack of accessibility to public transportation. Thanks to a recent grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, an organization in Maine is working to address that issue in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties.

The Eastern Maine Development Corporation applied for a grant with the USDOT and received nearly $445,290 to develop two planning studies for each county that will identify transportation issues and possible solutions. 

Lee Umphrey, president of EMDC, said they’re working to make sure the solutions they develop also reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

“We’re going to come up with solutions that are going to connect people in rural Maine to the resources not only in their area but to the service center down here in Bangor,” Umphrey said.

Umphrey said people living far away from cities like Bangor are often far from jobs, health care, and other resources. He said the solution is clear: Accessibility needs to be better. 

“The problem is folks live far away. And big distances in both northern Penobscot and Piscataquis counties are huge rural areas,” Umphrey said.

The first step of the project is partnering with researchers at the University of Maine to conduct a study, identify the issues, and to “come up with solutions that are both climate-friendly and affordable,” Umphrey said. 

Sue Mackey Andrews, a volunteer with Helping Hands With Heart, a nonprofit based in Piscataquis County, is working with EMDC on this project. She said part of the study will involve a survey for people living in those counties.

“To find out what do people really need, where do they need to go, how best do they need to get there,” Andrews said.

Mackey Andrews added another top priority is transportation accessibility for people with disabilities. 

“We were talking about maybe having transportation hubs throughout the region where, if people could get to those hubs, they could be transported to other different locations,” Mackey Andrews said.

Umphrey said he expects the study to take about a year to wrap up and for solutions to be identified. 

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