Editorial - East-West Highway

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The proposed East-West Highway from Calais (i.e. New Brunswick) to Coburn Gore (i.e. Quebec) has been in the news for several months. This past summer the state legislature voted to spend $300,000 of tax payer money to study the feasibility of this project which would be a privately built toll road. In October, Governor LePage was asked to suspend the study until the legislature has protections made into law for the property owners.

When Sen. Douglas Thomas (R. Ripley) was going door-to-door campaigning for his re-election, he found many of his constituents very concerned about the project. Their concerns were about property, environmental issues as well as the long-term plans for a privately owned highway.

No one doubts that this multimillion dollar project would create construction jobs and improve commerce, but members of the Democratic Party and conservation groups question what the cost would be to Maine and private property owners. Supporters of the project emphasize that no route has been identified yet and builders would not force property owners to sell. This sounds good but the fastest route from point A to point B is a straight line and if someone owns 500 acres in that line, the plan would probably not be to go around those 500 acres.

The state legislative proposal LR 95 would protect property owners from losing to imminent domain for private purposes but is that the same as public interest? It would take two-thirds of the legislature to make a constitutional amendment and while Governor LePage supports property owners, he has not decided whether or not he supports a constitutional amendment. Other legislators are opposed because changes in the constitution cost money. Peter Vigue, C.E.O. of Cianbro Cooperation, has said that “delay is understandable” until all questions have been answered. If the project is approved, Cianbro will, of course, bid on the construction work.

It is thought that lawmakers who voted for the $300,000 feasibility study did not understand how upset northern Maine voters and property owners would be or they probably would not have approved the study.

Sarah Todd

adapted from work of

John Richardson of 

Press Herald