The Coastal Packet: Bridge privateers would cut worker benefits

Sunday, November 1

Bridge privateers would cut worker benefits

Press Herald - The Maine Department of Transportation is seeking bids from a private contractor to operate and maintain the 18-year-old Casco Bay Bridge, which carries about 32,000 vehicles daily over the Fore River between Portland and South Portland.  The scope of the work outlined in the bid notice includes bridge operations, routine maintenance and incidental work. If the department finds a suitable bidder, it would be the first time the state has turned over bridge operations and maintenance to a private company.

The news surprised Rod Hiltz, executive director of the Maine State Employees Association, who said he was “hugely concerned” for public safety as well as the futures of the eight to 12 employees who work at the bridge if a bid is accepted. “Anybody who drives or walks over that bridge should be concerned about this,” Hiltz said. “Our people have a proven track record for operating and maintaining that bridge. We have an excellent safety record and this is critical work.”

“What’s the profit margin for public safety?” he said. “Why is someone trying to make a profit on taxpayer-funded public services? Taxpayers shouldn’t pay taxes so a corporation can make profits.”

Press Herald - Monmouth County in New Jersey turned over operation of four drawbridges to a private company in 2012. The county had been spending just over $2 million to maintain those bridges but found a company willing to do it for a bid of $1.49 million – primarily by trimming employee benefits and reducing overtime expenses.

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