Gateway to opportunity or toll on the environment?
By Edgar Allen Beem
In March the Maine Legislature approved and in April Governor Paul LePage signed into law LD 1671, a measure appropriating three hundred thousand dollars for an investment grade feasibility study of whether it would be a good deal for a private investor to build, own, and operate a 230-mile, four-lane divided east-west toll highway between Calais and Coburn Gore. Plans call for the study to be completed by an independent contractor, to be selected by the Maine Department of Transportation, and a report to be submitted to the legislature by January 15, 2013.
Backers of the East-West Highway see it as an economic development project with the potential to revitalize central Maine’s depressed economy. Opponents see it as another example, like the Plum Creek resort development around Moosehead Lake, of large-scale private developments threatening Maine’s priceless natural environment.