East-West Corridor Meeting Held at W.C.C.C.

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By Dorothy Johnson

About thirty-five stake holders in the East-West Corridor proposed by the Cianbro Company to reach from Calais to Coburn Gore came out Friday evening and gathered in the assembly hall at Washington County Community College.  Harold Clossey, director of the Sunrise County Economic Council, which set up the meeting, introduced Darrell Brown, program manager of the East-West Highway Project.  Mr. Brown was accompanied by three others from the Cianbro Corporation.

A Power Point presentation was shown to the audience composed of local city officials, local citizens and representatives of the State of Maine of Stop the East-West Corridor.  Specifics about the proposed highway were not available because, according to Brown, nothing has yet been decided.  “This is still a work in progress,” said Brown.  “No particular route has yet been decided.”

Facts that Washington County residents already know were presented on the big screen: Maine is the 50th worst state to start a business. The median age of the population of Maine is the oldest in the nation.  Washington County has a 10.7% unemployment rate.  Sixty per cent of northern Maine’s school population is eligible for free or reduced lunch.  (Northern Maine is considered areas north of Augusta for the purpose of this study.) Maine ranks 36th in poverty rate for the entire nation.  (That means that only 14 states are poorer than Maine for the purpose of this study.)

The proposed corridor will be 220 miles from east to west with a corridor width of 500 feet.  The entire project will cover 13,333 acres, which is about half the size of a Maine township.  The corridor will be privately funded, privately owned, privately operated, maintained and policed and constructed by Maine people and Maine companies.

Because of the advantage of the Port of Eastport, which has “the deepest water in all of the Continental U.S.,” and deep channels coming into the Port, an East-West Highway would make trade more profitable. “The corridor would cut the time it takes for a trucker to go from New Brunswick to Quebec by two and one-half to three hours,” said Brown.  Because gasoline in Maine has been, is and continues to be cheaper than in Canada, the highway would also cut truckers’ expenses.

When considering the exact route of the corridor, the planners will keep in mind:  home avoidance, property lines, terrain topography, soils and wetlands, avoidance, mitigation, compensation, conservation lands, deer yards, vernal pools and other environmental concerns.  The existing road will be 66 feet wide and can never be widened.  The first obstacle when the truckers get to Calais is that the highway has to go south of the Moosehorn.  That will put the highway closer to Eastport, which will help the water trade.  Still nothing has been decided.  Brown believes that the highway will cross Route 214 and Route 9 in an effort to hit the Stud Mill Road somewhere around Wesley.

Brown said that the highway would attract additional investments to Maine Rural communities.  Cianbro is also committed to having recreation trails within its 500 foot corridor.  They will not use imminent domain to obtain land because as a private company that would be against the law.

When asked by a member of the audience, what the linkage between the highway and reducing poverty was, Brown answered, “The Port of Eastport development would boost the Washington County Economy by creating many jobs.  Six interchanges with two in Washington County would bring more truckers to the area and make it easier and faster to ship Washington County products to the mid-west.  Agriculture would be more profitable in the area with a better transportation plan to the markets.  Maine could become the breadbasket of the Northeast.  The highway would also lend itself to the establishment of distribution centers like Walmart’s center in the Lewiston area.  That center sends out 300 trucks per day and provided for 600 paying jobs.”

The highway will be a toll road and provide its own funds for all manner of operations. Passenger cars will also be welcome on the highway and the company is aiming to keep the tolls much the same as those on the Interstate.

At the end of the meeting Calais Mayor Marianne Moore thanked Brown and presented him with letters of support from Calais Council, St. Stephen Council and Baileyville Council.

Some members of the audience left the meeting asking for more specific information on the planned route and with more questions that answers.