Competing Visions for an East-West Highway in Maine

Picture of Potential East-West Highway Map in Maine

Potential East-West Highway Map in Maine

Recently, the Bangor Daily News ran this interesting story on the competing visions for an East-West Highway in Maine. As shown in the graphic above, one the hand you have the proposed route from the U.S. Department of Transportation which would run from Calais to Gilead. On the other hand, you have a proposed route from Cianbro Corp. which would run from Calais to Colburn Gore.

Beyond the route itself, there are other major differences in the two plans. From the BDN story:

A privately funded east-west highway favored by Peter Vigue, chairman and CEO of Cianbro Corp., that gained state funding for a feasibility study last week differs from the east-west highway that was identified as a Congressional High Priority Corridor in mid-2005.

The federally designated corridor would run from Calais to Watertown, N.Y., cost about $12.5 billion and take more than 25 years to build.

That route has not advanced past the talking stage, primarily because of its price tag, which is why Vigue said he started studying a similar route that accomplishes the same goals but at a fraction of the cost.

Another big difference is that the state and Federal Highway Administration would pay for the Calais-to-New York state connection while the east-west highway proposed by Vigue would be bankrolled by private investors and maintained by money generated from tolls.

So which is the better plan? Clearly, the better route for interstate connectivity within Northern New England is the plan by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

However, there is zero discussion of this plan anywhere in Vermont, Maine or New Hampshire. In fact, New Hampshire is completely absorbed with paying for the expansion of I-93 south of Manchester which is already in a budget deficit–leaving no money for a new highway.

The beauty of the Cianbro plan is that it would be privately financed and paid for via tolls and right-of-way fees. Also, by keeping the plan within Maine, there are far fewer parties involved which simplifies the bureaucratic process.

Be sure to check out our more comprehensive post on the pros- and cons- of an East-West Highway–Solutions to Northern New England’s East-West Travel Woes.

What do you think . . . is the Cianbro plan better than nothing?


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