LINCOLN, Maine — Cianbro Chairman and CEO Peter Vigue will tell Lincoln Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce members Friday why he thinks a privately funded east-west highway connecting two Canadian provinces through Maine should be built.
Vigue will be the Chamber’s special guest speaker during its annual awards dinner Friday at the Knights of Columbus Hall off Route 2. Tickets still are available at $30 for members and $35 for others, but people interested must purchase them by 5 p.m. Thursday, Chamber President Cheryl Russell said.
“There is significant interest in the proposal and the Lincoln Lakes Chamber is really committed to looking at the proposal,” Russell said Wednesday. “It has been an issue discussed for several years, but there’s a lot of interest particularly in seeing how it would be funded by private investors, and I think the recent approval of the feasibility study has generated interest as well.”
Sponsored by several organizations including Gillmor’s Family Restaurant, CHRussell Group and Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC, the dinner will start with a social hour at 5 p.m. with the dinner and speakers’ program starting at 6 p.m.
Chamber leaders also will name the area’s Outstanding Volunteer and Outstanding Small Business. Anyone interested in attending the dinner can call the Chamber office at 794-8065 or visit it at 256 West Broadway in Lincoln.
The proposed $2 billion highway, which Gov. Paul LePage supports, would link New Brunswick to Quebec by way of a 220-mile toll highway through Maine. John Butera, LePage’s senior economic adviser, said the governor believes a highway would bring dollars into Maine while helping the Atlantic Provinces and New England grow as a whole. LePage signed a bill earmarking $300,000 for a study of the highway proposal last month.
Construction could start as early as 2015.
Several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, have said they oppose the proposal because they feel it would harm the largest stretch of contiguous forest in northern America and that project proponents have failed to show how Maine actually would benefit. Several forest products industry groups have supported the proposal.
One of the project’s largest supporters, Vigue spoke at the Cross-Border Economic Integration in the Northeast Conference at the University of Maine in Orono last month. He is due to speak on the project at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 15, at the Piscataquis County commissioners’ office in Dover-Foxcroft and at a public meeting 6-9 p.m. Thursday, May 31, at Foxcroft Academy.
The primary sponsor of the highway study bill, Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, plans to attend the meeting at the academy.
“Trucks move Maine and trucks move the Lincoln Lakes area economy. I think there is a lot of interest in this,” Russell said, “especially in what might it mean for our region’s trucking companies.”
“Peter has been talking about Maine’s economy and moving Maine forward when many economists have been talking that Maine’s economy is stale and stagnant,” Russell added. “His message of optimism is resounding when there aren’t a lot of positive things happening on the economic horizon.”