By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff | April 02, 2013
BANGOR, Maine — Uncertainty surrounding the route of a proposed 220-mile highway across Maine sparked vehement questioning and opposition during a Tuesday morning meeting at the historic Penobscot County Courthouse.
Cianbro Corp. CEO Peter Vigue, the leading proponent of the east-west highway, spent much of the meeting with commissioners trying to dispel what he called rumors and misconceptions about the proposed private $2.1-billionproject. Many of the more than 100 residents of Penobscot and Piscataquis counties in attendance weren’t satisfied after nearly two hours spent posing questions and concerns to Vigue.
Vigue argued that such a roadway would help Maine’s struggling economy grow and thrive. Residents voiced concerns that their towns and properties might lie in the path of the proposed highway, putting rural, agrarian ways of life at risk.
Cianbro, a Pittsfield-based construction company, has yet to release information about the corridor’s proposed route because its plans are fluid and changing on a regular basis, company representatives have said. That has left residents to speculate about whether it will cut a path through their communities or properties.
Penobscot County Commissioner Peter Baldacci said during the meeting that uncertainty among property owners about the path of the highway could lead to “condemnation blight,” a legal term referring to a reduction in property value that results from potential eminent domain claims. While Cianbro has repeatedly said that eminent domain will not be used, its decision to map out a route behind closed doors is causing uncertainty among residents who are left to speculate about the future of their land, Baldacci said.
Residents vehemently questioned Vigue, mostly on where the highway would be placed. Some attendees shouted out in disagreement or scoffed when Vigue provided uncertain answers or said he didn’t have or wasn’t prepared to release information related to the private project or its partners.
During his presentation and in answering questions that followed, Vigue vowed that there would be no public-private partnership between Cianbro and the state, that eminent domain would not be used to acquire land, and that tar sands and oil pipelines would not be run along the corridor in the foreseeable future.
The meeting came less than two months after a commissioners meeting during which more than a dozen Penobscot and Piscataquis County residents blasted the highway proposal. Commissioners asked Vigue to provide Cianbro’s perspective on the idea.