If you live in or around Portland, you might want to pay attention to this story.

The Portland Press Herald reported today that the Maine Department of Transportation, under Governor Paul LePage, has taken the unprecedented step of putting the operation and maintenance of the Casco Bay Bridge out to bid.

The Casco Bay Bridge connects Portland to South Portland, and carries more than 30,000 vehicles every day. The bridge's 8-12 employees maintain drawbridge operations, maintenance, and are employed by the State of Maine. The bridge and its employees have a track record of safety, according to Rod Hiltz, executive director of the Maine State Employees Association.

Under the proposed privatization, a private company would take over daily operations and maintenance.

At a recent press conference, Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot did not know exactly how much the bridge costs to operate annually, but still said the reason for seeking the change was "savings."

There's still no word as to whether a potential private contractor would be able to charge vehicles for crossing the bridge or make any other major changes.

So, let's summarize:

  • The LePage administration wants to privatize a vital piece of our infrastructure, but doesn't even know how much it costs to run.
  • We have no idea if the employees that currently work at the bridge would be fired by a new operator.
  • The DOT refused to discuss security concerns with switching to a private operator, even though our employees have a great safety record.

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