State senator pitches east-west highway proposal

Posted Jan. 27, 2012, at 6:28 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Having submitted a bill to fund a feasibility study of an east-west highway across Maine, Sen. Douglas Thomas, R-Ripley, discussed the proposal with the Board of Selectmen during a Jan. 23 meeting.

“It will connect to the new border station in Calais, and New Brunswick has already built a new superhighway to the border station,” Thomas said.

He said the highway would extend west across Maine, covering many areas where logging roads are in place now, to Coburn Gore and link up with Quebec. “It’s going to connect us to Canada. There are millions and millions of people in Montreal and we should be seeing some of that traffic.”

Thomas said his bill seeks approximately $300,000 for the feasibility study, using some federal planning money but no state funds.

“My understanding is it will be a four-lane highway and it’s going to be a private road,” he said, noting that a group of investors would fund construction, and tolls along the travel way would provide funding for the highway.

Thomas said Cianbro’s Peter Vigue has been researching the east-west highway concept, but the project would be open to bid. He said those involved in the project are hoping to get started by 2014, “and I’m guessing it will take a couple of years to build.”

“If we wait to do this with public money it’s not going to happen,” he added. “But if we can get this kind of commerce through this area, it’s going to help our economy.”

Thomas said the proposed highway “crosses the Interstate just north of Old Town, goes through north of Charleston, south of Sebec, south of Milo and it goes just north of Dover. But this isn’t set in concrete, this is a proposed map.”

“Someone’s got to have to plow that road, it’s going to need offices, and we are centrally located, and it’s going to need roughly 300 employees,” he added, referring to some of the possible economic benefits of the highway. “There would be $1.2 billion of construction money going into this area and people would be getting to work.”

Thomas said the proposal is now “in the concept stage and now we have to see if it’s even feasible.”

He said the study could take six to 12 months to complete.

The selectmen opted not to pass a resolution concerning the east-west highway proposal. “I think it’s too early,” Selectman Jim Annis said.

“I would just like to say the concept is intriguing but the devil is in the details,” Selectman Paul Matulis said. “I would say make an exit in this area. Otherwise what do we get out of this?”

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