Brewer councilors line up against DOT’s preferred I-395-Route 9 connector

Posted March 12, 2012, at 7:48 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Municipal leaders will consider a resolve Tuesday that will withdraw the city’s support for building a proposed Interstate 395-Route 9 connector road that has been in the planning stages for more than a dozen years.

“It’s pretty darn clear” that city councilors are upset with the Maine Department of Transportation, City Manager Steve Bost said Monday.

City Council members are frustrated with the DOT’s recent actions — mainly the department’s recent change of its preferred route from one selected in 2003 without first consulting city or area town leaders.

In an unusual move all five councilors have put their names on a resolve withdrawing support for building the limited-access highway.

While city leaders support improving the transportation corridor between the Canadian Maritime Provinces and the federal highway system, “The City of Brewer and other stakeholders have been excluded from the public process as well as the decision-making process used by the DOT,” the proposed council resolve states.

State transportation officials have been studying a Brewer-Holden-Eddington connector since before 2000. Brewer and Eddington leaders learned in January that the DOT had selected a new preferred I-395-Route 9 connector route.

A draft Environmental Impact Study and Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit Application — which include more than 300 pages of information — have been completed on the new preferred route and two others that are similar, and the state and federal governments are now taking public comment, the state’s I-395-Route 9 connector website states.

Maine transportation officials recently eliminated the proposed route they selected in 2003 — which was supported by Brewer councilors and would have cut through the mostly unpopulated center of Holden — and have now selected the 2B2 option.

The new preferred route would extend I-395 at its Wilson Street junction and would roughly follow the Holden-Brewer line until entering Eddington and connecting with 4.5 miles of rebuilt Route 9.

The DOT and the Federal Highway Administration also are officially considering two other alternatives — 5A2B2 and 5B2B2 — which are similar to 2B2.

The 5A2B2 route extends I-395 at its most southerly point by approximately one mile and then turns north to a junction with U.S. Route 1A, roughly following the Holden-Brewer line, mostly on the Brewer side, until entering Eddington and connecting with Route 9.

The 5B2B2 route would extend I-395 at its Wilson Street junction and would wind north toward the Eastern Avenue and Lambert Road junction, then would parallel the Brewer-Holden town line until crossing into Eddington and turning east toward Route 9.

The Federal Highway Administration, which eventually will pay for the project, the DOT and the Army Corps of Engineers agreed to study the three alternatives in the spring of 2011.

The three agencies will hold a joint open house about the project at the Brewer Auditorium from 3 to 8 p.m. on April 4. A public hearing will be scheduled for May.

Public comments for the DOT on the draft environmental study can be sent to: Russell D. Charette, P.E., Maine Department of Transportation, director, Mobility Management Division, Bureau of Transportation Systems Planning, 16 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333, or by email at russell.charette@maine.gov.

Public comments for the FHA on the draft environmental study can be sent to: Mark Hasselmann, Federal Highway Administration, Edmund S. Muskie Federal Building, 40 Western Ave., Room 614, Augusta, ME 04433, or by email at mark.hasselmann@fhwa.dot.gov.

Public comments on the draft environmental impact assessment-Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit Application are due by May 15.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to open public comments for the water permit application for the I-395-Route 9 connector shortly.

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