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Monson residents to vote on east-west highway moratorium Tuesday

Alex Barber | BDN
Alex Barber | BDN
Several people hold up signs protesting the proposed east-west highway while the Piscataquis County Commissioners meeting goes on inside in Dover-Foxcroft on Tuesday, May 15, 2012.
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

MONSON, Maine — Residents who attend Tuesday night’s public hearing and special town meeting will decide whether or not to impose a six-month moratorium on privately owned highways and utility corridors, recently elected Town Selectman Bryant Brown said Monday.

The 180-day moratorium before voters is specifically designed to stop progress in town on the proposed east-west highway, a 220-mile privately funded toll highway to connect Calais to Coburn Gore.

While the exact route for the planned 4-lane roadway has not been announced, “We were one of the routes in consideration,” Brown said of his Piscataquis County hometown.

“We believe in being proactive,” the selectman said. “We’re nowhere near prepared for a project of this size or how it would impact the town. We want to make sure things like quality of life and property values aren’t affected.

“Monson is an area where people are not particularly pleased with the whole idea,” Brown said.

The town’s three selectmen voted unanimously in July to hold the special town meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, at Monson Town Hall. The meeting will begin with a short presentation by Planning Board Chairwoman Cindy Turner and Town Manager Julie Anderson.

The privately funded toll highway that Peter Vigue, chairman and CEO of Cianbro Corp., has spent the last two years making presentations about all over the region gained state funding for a $300,000 feasibility study in early April.

Five months later, the scope of the Maine Department of Transportation study still has not been set, Gov. Paul LePage said two weeks ago when he agreed to ask the DOT to slow down work on the study.

The $2 billion roadway as proposed by Vigue would start in Calais, follow Stud Mill Road to Costigan, just north of Old Town, cross the Penobscot River, then head northwest to LaGrange, Milo, south of Dover-Foxcroft, Monson and The Forks before connecting to Route 27 and crossing the Canadian border into Quebec.

The initial plan has six interchanges in Maine, and from the state’s border, it is only about 60 miles to Trans Canada Highway Route 10 near Sherbrooke — with connections to Buffalo, Detroit and other Midwest destinations — and to Trans Canada Highway Route 73 to Beauceville, located south of Quebec City.

The proposed moratorium, which would ban private highways, pipelines and utility corridors, would give town leaders time to write local rules, just in case the east-west highway does end up winding through town, Brown said.

“What will come out of the 180 days is codes so we can keep our place the way it is,” he said, adding provisions allow for another 180-day extension, if needed.

Under the moratorium, if passed, “Anybody can sell any lands they want, but the town officials are not going to issue any permits to start anything until we get all our ducks in a row,” Brown said.

The proposed highway has been the talk of the town for months, the town selectman said.

“People who are concerned will show up [and vote] and people who don’t give a damn won’t,” Brown said.

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