Maine east-west highway timeline

1990 – Leaders at the New England Governors-Eastern Canadian Premiers’ conference in Hartford, Connecticut, recommend the creation of an east-west highway through Maine that would link the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec.

1991 – Departing Speaker of the House John L. Martin told Presque Isle Rotarians that the creation of a long proposed 100-mile east-west highway from Ashland to the Quebec border would be the “saving grace” for Aroostook County.

1997 – State Rep. Pamela Hatch, D-Skowhegan, leads a small group of legislators calling for preliminary studies of a highway and a second bill calling for a $100 million bond issue which Hatch said would be supplemented by federal money. The highway would follow Route 9 from Calais to Bangor and then Route 2 to the New Hampshire border at Gilead. In Skowhegan, one branch of the new highway would split from Route 2 and follow Route 201 to the northern Maine border with Quebec near Jackman. Total projected cost: $1.1 billion.

1999 — A study prepared for the Maine Department of Transportation concludes that the benefits of a four-lane divided highway across Maine don’t justify the costs, recommending instead that Maine work to improve existing roads. Although a new highway running from Calais to Quebec or New Hampshire could generate as many as 3,500 jobs in the next three decades in construction, tourism, business services and other fields, the study found that the cost of creating each of those jobs would range from $200,000 to $400,000.

2005 – President George W. Bush signs a federal transportation bill allocating $1.1 billion to the state over the next six years, including $28 million for the east-west highway.

2007 — President and CEO of Cianbro Corp. Peter Vigue unveiled a proposal for a toll highway from Calais to Coburn Gore, a privately-funded venture that he said was the only solution to the pressing need for a better way to cross the state. It’s cost: $2.1 billion.

2012 — Gov. Paul LePage signed into law a bill setting aside $300,000 to study the feasibility of Vigue’s proposal. Environmentalists say Canadian businesses and truckers will benefit from a short route across Maine, not Mainers or tourists. The project also lacks enough interchanges and would have adverse potential environmental impacts, they say. The Sierra Club calls the project one of the worst in the U.S.

2013 – Vigue says he supports the decision of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee to repeal a feasibility study for the proposed highway. He says the project could go forward anyway and a study “is something that can be done and be done by a third party.” The Transportation Committee votes unanimously to recommend repealing the $300,000 feasibility study for the proposed $2.1 billion private east-west highway.

Source: BDN archives

Dead or dormant? Proponents, opponents weigh in on status of east-west highway proposal

BDN PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY ERIC ZELZ
Posted Dec. 30, 2014, at 5:37 a.m.
Last modified Dec. 30, 2014, at 5:53 a.m.

PITTSFIELD, Maine — The proposal to build a $2.1 billion, privately funded east-west highway connecting two Canadian provinces through Maine is not dead, just on the back burner, a spokesman for the plan’s main proponent said Monday.

“We have sort of lowered the temperature on that project a little bit for a whole bunch of reasons,” said Darryl Brown, program manager for the east-west highway project at Cianbro Corp. “We still are very passionate about the fact that this corridor is much needed and certainly would provide a transportation alternative to the west and upper midwest, particularly in this time of global economy.”

“But in terms of actively pursuing some of the things that need to happen, we have not been as engaged as of late as we were a year ago,” Brown added. “There are other projects that Cianbro is involved in that take precedence.”

Company workers are still “spending some time on this determining where the best routing possibilities would lie,” he said. That’s about the extent of their efforts, he said.

Proponents and opponents agreed that the project is at least dormant.

“I would say it is in the slow lane, maybe the breakdown lane, certainly not the fast lane,” said Jym St. Pierre, Maine director of Restore: The North Woods, an environmental group that opposes the plan.

“I think it is on life support,” said former state Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, who supports the idea. “I am beginning to wonder if it will ever be built because the people who are for it are not as enthused as the people against it. The people who are against it are just worked right up. It is a political hot button.”

Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said that as far as state officials are concerned, the highway plan “is on the same shelf it was on when it was shelved the last time,” in May 2013.

That’s when the Legislature’s Transportation Committee voted unanimously to repeal a $300,000 Maine DOT feasibility study of the highway in response to intense opposition, effectively killing any momentum the project might have developed. The “investor-grade” study would determine for investors whether the highway would be worth the expense, and give state officials a basis for future east-west highway planning, Thomas said.

The idea had been kicking around Maine for decades when Cianbro president Peter Vigue began promoting his company’s take on it in 2007. He said the 220-mile private highway would bisect Maine from Calais to Coburn Gore, connecting Canada’s Maritime Provinces with Quebec.

Messages left for Vigue seeking comment for this story were not returned. He has previously said that the highway would help Maine take advantage of its location by improving connectivity of eastern Canada and the interior United States with Atlantic trade routes to Europe and Asia, while drawing millions of dollars in investment and creating thousands of jobs.

It would be, he said, a particular boost for rural Maine communities devastated by the loss of traditional manufacturing and resource-based jobs.

But details about the highway, including its exact route, have been scarce, and environmental groups, small-business owners and residents of communities that could be affected by the project have opposed the plan through several legislative measures. One environmentalist claimed that it would cross or be in the viewshed of more than five dozen significant conservation and recreation areas.

Nine municipalities have passed ordinances or regulations opposing or requiring their approval of the highway. They are Abbott, Charleston, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Garland, Monson, Parkman, Sangerville and Wellington, said Chris Buchanan, statewide coordinator of Stop The East-West Corridor. The towns, in general, fear losing the land needed to build the highway and the effects on their businesses and property values if it is constructed.

The opposition to it was among the things that made the study proposal easy for legislators to reject. Legislators assumed the public end of the public-private partnership would involve the state sinking tens to hundreds of millions of dollars into the highway, an unpalatable notion, said state Sen. Edward Mazurek, D-Rockland, former chairman of the Transportation Committee, the body that would take up a revised or resubmitted bill.

“Personally, I don’t think that it would [be taken up again]. There was a lot of discussion about it and the general consensus of it was that Route 2 basically is an east-west highway for the state,” Mazurek said. “The perception was that a few people would benefit from it but not most others in the state.”

The highway’s proponents appear to be keeping the issue under the radar, if they are dealing with it at all. Gov. Paul LePage, who conditionally supports the project, hasn’t made any public statements about it recently. His spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, did not return a recent email message. A spokeswoman for Eastern Maine Development Corp., another project proponent, declined to comment on it.

David Cole, a transportation consultant and former Maine Department of Transportation commissioner, said he is unaware of any promotion of the proposal occurring recently, while Sidney Mitchell, secretary to the Friends of the Piscataquis Valley group that opposes the project, said that group members hope to work with legislators this spring to disassemble parts of the laws that allow public-private partnerships.

Cole, who was DOT commissioner when Vigue began promoting the idea in 2007, supports improving northern Maine’s infrastructure, but said he thinks the state has a bigger opportunity to improve its east-to-west transportation infrastructure in the near future with its port-to-rail connections.

“Any proposal for a major east-west highway would require strong public support and need to make sense economically,” Cole said. “The economics have to be there before people are going to support any proposal. They have to know that the traffic is there, and to my knowledge, that hasn’t happened yet. That’s not saying whether an east-west highway is good or bad.”

Cole made a point that the state’s three gubernatorial candidates offered when the plan was discussed prior to the November election — that too little was known about the plan to determine whether it should be endorsed.

“I think at this point there are still a lot of unknowns about how a highway would work. Those questions would have to be answered and again, that’s something that needs a lot of public support,” Cole added.

Buchanan said she wished the idea would disappear.

“It seems unfair that people are living in limbo with no way to end what most people are perceiving as a threat,” she said. “That is the most important message I can say.”

Thomas, Cole and St. Pierre said they don’t see the project going away. They assume that Vigue and other proponents continue to work on it privately. The study bill could be revived publicly, Talbot said, by legislative action or upon LePage’s request.

“If doing an east-west highway were easy,” Cole said wryly, “it would have been done 50 years ago, right?”

BDN writers Alex Barber, Robert Long, and Mario Moretto contributed to this report.

Darryl Brown to lead Greater Franklin Development Corporation

Monday, Sep 8, 2014 | Lewiston Sun Journal

Link to Original Article

FARMINGTON — Greater Franklin Development Corp. has elected Darryl Brown as chairman of its board of directors.

The former vice chairman of the organization was elected unanimously at a special board meeting Aug. 20.

Brown has more than 40 years of experience in land use planning, soils evaluation and permitting at local, state and federal levels. As founder and owner of Main-Land Development Consultants Inc. in Livermore Falls, he represented clients all over Maine, including major paper companies and ski areas.

During that time, he developed relationships with all regulatory and planning agencies in Maine, including the Department of Environmental Protection, the Land Use Planning Commission, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Following the sale of his company in 2011, Brown became a member of Gov. Paul LePage’s cabinet, serving as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection and later as director of the State Planning Office. During his tenure at the governor’s office, he developed a relationship with the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Brown is senior project manager at Cianbro Corp., where his responsibilities include providing assistance on land use issues for projects that require regulatory approval and compliance. He also works on special projects for Cianbro CEO Pete Vigue to promote economic development opportunities for Maine, including improved rail service, port development and East-West connectivity to global markets.

Brown said in a statement, “The Greater Franklin Development Corporation is an organization that has a track record of bringing business to our service area. That is a testament to the former leadership of the organization.

“The current economic challenges that face our state and Franklin County have been with us since 2008 when the economy took a sudden negative turn, and we have found ourselves in the deepest recession since the Great Depression. In spite of that, Maine and Franklin County remain among the nicest places to live, work and play in America,” he said.

“We will continue to promote our area with the commitment to bring good quality companies and jobs to the region. As chair for the next year, it will be my privilege to work with my fellow board members and our very capable staff, who share my enthusiasm and positive outlook for the future.”

The corporation elected Brown because his attitude parallels the mission to create and keep quality employment opportunities in greater Franklin County by actively attracting new business, assisting local employers and encouraging entrepreneurs, according to officials.

Brown resides in Livermore Falls with his wife, Penny.

 

Darryl Brown

– Submitted Photo