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East-West Bills Headed for Transportation Committee

In response to varying concerns about the proposed development of an East-West highway/corridor across Maine, some important bills are making their way through the legislature. Five of them will soon be coming up for a hearing before the Transportation Committee in April, where they will be taken up in a single session. They are:

LD 1209, “An Act To Prohibit the Use of Public Resources for a Privately Owned East-West Highway,” sponsored by Rep. Katherine Cassidy (Lubec): Prohibits the use of public funds or state-owned property for the development of such a highway/corridor, including preparation or study. Also repeals last session’s investment feasibility study (c. 147).

LD 1269, “An Act To Require an Independent Analysis of the Impact of and a Review Process for an East-West Highway prior to Development,” sponsored by Rep. Ralph Chapman (Brooksville): Requires, prior to the development of such a highway/corridor, a comprehensive independent analysis of all environmental, economic, and cultural risks and impacts on Maine’s residents and landscape, subject to public comment and site plan review. Also prohibits the use of public funds and repeals last session’s economic feasibility study (c. 147).

LD 870, “Resolve, Regarding a Study by the Department of Transportation of the Most Efficient Options for Improving East-West Transit and Transportation,” sponsored by Sen. Edward Mazurek (Rockland): Directs the DOT to study existing highways and rail lines to determine options for improving east-west transit and transportation in Maine.

LD 985, “Resolve, to Repeal the Requirement that the Department of Transportation Facilitate a Feasibility Study of an East-West Highway and Provide for Public Access of Certain Documents,” sponsored by Sen. Edward Mazurek (Rockland): Repeals last session’s investment feasibility study (c. 147) and its reimbursement, and specifies that any related documents are public and not confidential.

LD 362, “An Act To Prohibit Use of Public Funds for a Private Transportation Study,” sponsored by Sen. Linda Valentino (Saco): Prohibits the use of DOT funds to pay for a traffic and revenue study or finance plan in connection with a proposal for a transportation facility made by a private entity.

Maine’s current public-private partnership law (Title 23), omitting transparency and public oversight, sets the stage for the development of an East-West highway/industrial corridor to be a real possibility. (Private highways are not allowed under Maine law, and should remain so.) Whether private or public-private, such a corridor across Maine, potentially owned by international corporate investors, would certainly have wide-ranging impacts statewide on Maine’s communities, environment, recreational and local access, property rights, and quality of life. Supporting these bills, especially LD 1209 and 1269, could go a long way toward taking the proposed project off the table, and building in safeguards against corporate control of Maine’s transportation infrastructure and landscape.

With this important hearing before the Transportation Committee looming on the near horizon, it’s crucial for everyone concerned about the proposed East-West corridor to quickly come up to speed and begin preparing testimony.

If you are not able to attend the hearing, you can send written testimony to the Transportation Committee Clerk: Darlene Simoneau, 100 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333, Darlene.simoneau@legislature.maine.gov.  It is important that your testimony be properly submitted, or it may not be counted and included as part of the hearing review. The three formats are email, individual hard-copy testimony, and petition format hard-copy testimony. The hard-copy formats (20 copies) are the most effective; email does not get included in the committee member files. Written testimony is a powerful tool that counts. You can send additional copies to your local legislators when asking them to support these bills.

Complete up-to-date details on bill text, status, and scheduling are posted on the legislature’s website, www.mainelegislature.org; here you can also find East-West corridor–related testimony under LD 721. The Natural Resources Council of Maine (www.nrcm.org), the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club (www.maine.sierraclub.org), and the Hancock County Democratic Committee (www.hancockdems.org) are also watching and supporting these bills. For testimony guidelines, maps, and links to articles and events, visit www.stopthecorridor.org, the website of the statewide citizens’ coalition Stop the East-West Corridor.

 

Jane Crosen

Penobscot, Maine

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