Permitting reform will help maximize rural Maine’s infrastructure investments

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Marianne Moore represents District 6 in the Maine Senate. She is the Senate Republican lead on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

The bipartisan federal infrastructure law passed in late 2021 with the support and leadership of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins continues to pay off for rural Maine communities throughout Washington County and across the state. From improvements in our essential transportation infrastructure to investments in expanding rural broadband, the infrastructure law is helping to improve life for rural Mainers, support and strengthen local businesses, and create jobs and new economic opportunities.

Under the law, as enacted in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Maine is receiving roughly $1.5 billion over five years to build or rebuild, repair and upgrade our roads, highways and bridges. This includes $33 million awarded to the Maine Department of Transportation to rehabilitate nearly 70 miles of U.S. Route 1 running through Washington County, including vital safety improvements and modernizations.

Additionally, rural Maine residents, businesses and communities will benefit from faster, more reliable internet as Maine continues to expand rural broadband networks with another $5 million from the infrastructure law.

However, just as important as these investments — if not perhaps more so — is the pressing need to ensure all of this critical funding makes its way to rural Maine communities who need it most in a timely, efficient manner. This is why the job of Congress is not done. To maximize investments from the bipartisan infrastructure law, Congress must follow the suggestions provided by many members of the Maine Legislature, including myself, and pass bipartisan permitting reform without delay.

Unfortunately, many vital infrastructure and energy projects get caught up in an overly complicated, convoluted and inefficient federal permitting process. The inefficiencies and redundancies in siting, reviewing and permitting new projects can and do create massive delays that not only prevent the actual construction of new infrastructure, but also increase costs, scare off investors and undermine a project’s financial viability and prospective future.

Ultimately, this only hurts Mainers, particularly those living in rural areas that would benefit most from these kinds of infrastructure investments. It wastes taxpayer money while delaying any tangible benefits — including jobs, economic activity and quality-of-life improvements — from actually reaching our communities. Lawmakers need to find a way to reduce the red tape so we can put investments from the infrastructure law to work for Maine.

Fortunately, with passage of the infrastructure law, Congress has already proven it can come together in a bipartisan fashion to pass common-sense solutions that support economic, energy and infrastructure development. Those negotiations also proved there is an appetite for federal permitting reform on both sides of the aisle. It’s time to make this a legislative priority so lawmakers can help states like Maine follow through and make the most of the investments Congress committed to us.

There is no doubt these investments will be critical to creating jobs, supporting local businesses and improving the lives of everyday Mainers. Without serious reform and streamlining of our broken permitting process, however, many of these opportunities may never come to fruition. Just as they did with infrastructure, I encourage Congress to find a way to pass bipartisan permitting reform.