Opposition to proposed I-395-Route 9 connector grows as open house approaches

Posted April 28, 2012, at 1:53 p.m.
Eric Zelz | BDN

EDDINGTON, Maine — As the date for a public hearing on the project draws near, local resistance to the proposed Interstate 395-Route 9 connector continues to build.

The most recent shows of opposition occurred over the last week in Eddington, where selectmen and planning board members formally withdrew their support for the connector, Town Manager Russell Smith said Friday.

Selectmen voted 3-2 in favor of adopting a resolve withdrawing their support for the project and stating their support for the “no build” option during a meeting Tuesday night, Smith noted.

On Thursday night, planning board members unanimously drafted and signed a statement saying they no longer support the connector.

Planning board members asked that the options be withdrawn and “taken back to the [project’s public advisory committee] for further consideration and involvement in a more public, open and transparent process.”

Eddington officials also have been presented a petition signed by about 180 residents who do not want the proposed two-lane highway in their town, Smith said, adding that the petition likely will be signed by more residents over the next few days.

The resolve, statement and petition will be presented to federal and state transportation officials in time for an open house and public hearing on the connector, Russell said.

Set for 1-4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Eddington town office, the open house is the second held this month by representatives from the Federal Highway Administration, the Maine Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The public hearing will follow from 6 to 8 p.m. at Eddington Elementary School.

State and federal transportation officials have been studying a Brewer-Holden-Eddington connector since before 2000 as a way to ease heavy truck traffic between the Canadian Maritimes and the federal highway system.

Transportation officials named 2B-2 as their preferred route late last year. That option would extend I-395 at its Wilson Street junction and roughly would follow the Holden-Brewer line, mostly on the Brewer side, and then enter Eddington, where it would connect to 4.5 miles of rebuilt Route 9.

The DOT and the Federal Highway Administration also officially are considering two other alternatives — 5A2B-2 and 5B2B-2 — which are similar to 2B-2, and a “no build” option.

Because it is virtually the same as the 2B route MDOT eliminated from its list of 70-plus alternatives in late 2002, the decision to put 2B-2 at the top of the list stunned town officials and residents of the three communities when they learned about it in late December. The MDOT quickly issued an apology.

Transportation officials’ failure to involve Brewer in the decision-making process that led to the selection of 2B-2 prompted city councilors there to unanimously withdraw their support for the connector in March.

Eddington selectmen’s resolve takes the MDOT to task for choosing a preferred route they say will harm many residential properties and wetlands — and in a manner in which “the town of Eddington and other stakeholders have been excluded from the process.”

Russell Charette, the state Department of Transportation’s project manager for the connector, said earlier this month that while he understands affected residents’ frustrations, as MDOT sees it, 2B-2 would have the least effect on homes and the environment.

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