AUGUSTA, Maine — Lawmakers on Thursday rejected a proposal to reopen two rest stops along Interstate 95 that were shuttered as part of state budget cuts.
Rep. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, argued during floor debate that the closed rest stops on either side of the interstate in Pittsfield look bad and send the wrong message to the tourists who represent Maine’s largest industry.
Thomas got several laughs when he compared the decision to inviting guests to your home and then locking the bathroom door.
“If those people are to come back, we need to make them feel welcome,” Thomas said in support of his bill, LD 1719, which would require the Department of Transportation to reopen the two stops.
Likewise, Reps. Herbie Clark of Millinocket and Richard Blanchard of Old Town, both Democrats, said the scenic overlook along I-95 in Medway that offers views of Mount Katahdin should be plowed during winter. LD 1719 would also require DOT to maintain the scenic overlook year-round for visitors.
But opponents of the measure pointed out maintaining the additional rest stops would cost the DOT an estimated $227,000 over fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
Those expenses would come at a time when the department has had to slash in half the mileage of roads that will receive maintenance paving this year.
Additionally, the DOT only has enough money to rebuild a small percentage of the state-maintained roads in need of serious repair.
“The DOT needs to concentrate on its core mission,” said Rep. Ann Peoples, D-Westbrook, one of 10 members of the Transportation Committee to recommend rejection of the bill. Only two committee members, including Thomas, supported the bill.
“This is a classic example of the tough choices we have to make in this Legislature,” added Rep. Michael Carey, D-Lewiston.
The House voted “ought not to pass” by a margin of 82-61.