February 16, 2012
Dear members of the Transportation Committee,
I have compiled these points regarding LD 1671 that I urge you to consider. We want to see Maine prosper. Please do not allow this feasibility study to occur, for the following reasons:
Taxpayers funding a “financial” feasibility study, to see if private investors will profit. During the public hearing, we learned for the first time that this study was, “really just a financial feasibility study,” according to Maine DOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Van Note. They are not looking at routing, or environmental impact. Rather, they are looking to see if the demand exists for this road, and if the toll road owners will make money. Why should taxpayers do a financial risk assessment for private investors?
No way to limit the cost to taxpayers. The RESOLVE asks for $300,000 of taxpayer money, then the Maine DOT puts the project out to bid. According to Van Note, if the project requires more funding, they will not need to bring it back before the Transportation Committee, or request public permission. Taxpayers are signing a blank check for a private project.
What exactly does “Independent study” mean? During his testimony at the public hearing, Bruce Van Note said three different things in favor of this highway: 1) That the Maine DOT can’t do the study because this project is a “special” case and requires specific expertise. 2) That the Maine DOT needs to do the study so that it is “independent” and unbiased towards anyone who may benefit from the project. 3) That the project would be put up for bid. We demand clarification from the State about how these mixed messages protect the public.
How much will a toll cost? There is no way to control the cost, or to ensure accessibility to Mainers. According to an inside source, the toll is proposed to cost $75. However, Canadian transports could pay up to $150 for the toll and still save money cutting across Maine. Toll investors are poised to profit handsomely just from that traffic. For all the honey-coated appeals to Maine people, saying this will bring tourism and jobs, that is not the intended purpose. The toll may be exorbitant, and exclude most users other than Canadian truckers, and multinational corporations.
Not for Maine communities, or tourists. In addition to being cost prohibitive, the east-west highway is a limited access throughway from Quebec to the Canadian Maritimes. When questioned about how this road would access Maine communities, Peter Vigue could only name two places along the route: North of Dover Foxcroft, and at Route 201. The exit at Dover Foxcroft allows for containers to be exchanged at Brownville Junction. There is an additional intermodal facility proposed at the Costigan railroad junctions. To reiterate, the road is designed for Canadian transport trucks, then multinational corporations who want to extract raw materials from Maine to export to global markets.
Diminished local economic opportunity, and community vibrancy. Globalization exploits resource-rich communities. Take a broad look at other communities that have been used for raw resource extraction: the Middle East, most of Africa, South America, Haiti… some of the poorest and highest conflict-ridden areas in the world. We see the same equation there: Low cost, raw resource extraction by wealthy private investors to profit in the global market. That economic model only benefits a few, at the expense of the rest. It leaves communities in poverty because they no longer have value in their land to sustain themselves, and in conflict because people are powerless to meet their needs. Do we want Maine to be another colony? By caring for the health of our land, and listening to the people who live on it, we support local economic initiatives, small business, and community vitality.
No public voice + limited state regulation = an environmental and community disaster. This is an entirely private project. There will be no public advocacy. What do people do if any part of this project is unwanted? Like all other private projects, investors will go through a regulatory permitting process for all their intended environmental impacts. Due simply to access to capital, community voices are hushed by big business all the time. Individuals have peanuts compared to corporate coffers. Facing the reality of this power imbalance, deepens our concern over this project. The feasibility study opens the door to one of the most signficant landscape and cultural transformations Maine has ever seen, with no feedback from Mainers. We are facing irreversible impact to the heart of Maine.
Burning even more fossil-fuel – that doesn’t seem right. Globally and nationally, we are running out of oil. To meet our current demand, people are considering dangerous and costly projects like moving Tar Sands oil from Alberta, Canada to U.S. refineries. Building another road, that would cause irreversible damage to the environment and local communities, is moving in the wrong direction. It is not a creative or innovative solution, it is exactly the opposite.
We urge the Transportation Committee and Maine Legislature to create a long-term vision that values Maine’s strengths, as opposed to focusing on Maine’s weaknesses. Maine is a treasure with unique and incredibly beautiful ecology. Maine people are creative, hardworking, and passionate. Please listen openly. Let’s build on our strengths, not sell them out.
grassroots organizer, Defending Water for Life in Maine