BREWER, Maine — The proposed Interstate 395-Route 9 connector is designed to relieve heavy truck traffic in the area, but so far, all it has done is upset community members who do not want it, Brewer City Council members said Tuesday.
City Councilor Arthur “Archie” Verow, who is serving his first term in the Maine House of Representatives for District 21 and sits on the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation, said he is planning to submit a bill this fall to quash the $61 million project that was initiated in 2000.
“That [bill] will state that this project is not supported by Brewer City Council and the city of Brewer and ask that it is taken off the table,” Verow said. “I will encourage people who are in opposition to that [project] to come before the transportation committee and state their objections.
“Hopefully, that will conclude this chapter of this,” he said.
The Maine Department of Transportation selected a preferred route for the connector at the end of 2011 that would extend I-395 at its Wilson Street junction and would roughly follow the Holden-Brewer line until entering Eddington and connecting with Route 9.
“That will have a significant negative impact to residents in the city of Brewer,” Verow said during the council meeting.
There are two similar routes and a “no build” alternative also under consideration by DOT.
Brewer officials were so upset that DOT officials did not discuss with them the decision to change the state’s preferred route from one that cut through the unoccupied center of Holden that city councilors unanimously withdrew their support for the connector in March 2012.
The year-old resolve was unanimously reaffirmed on Tuesday after Verow made his announcement.
“The town of Eddington [is expected to] pass a similar resolve,” the Brewer councilor and state representative said.
Messages left Wednesday for Eddington Town Manager Russell Smith and Holden Town Manager John Butts for comment on the issue were not immediately returned.
Holden councilors also passed a resolve nearly five years ago saying the state was wasting local and state resources on the project.
Brewer Councilor Jerry Goss said he was most upset with the state for its lack of transparency in recent years.
“The city of Brewer and other stakeholders have been excluded from the process,” he said. “The city of Brewer now supports a no-build option.”
City Manager Steve Bost said residents in Brewer, Holden and Eddington have spent thousands of hours working on plans to ease traffic flow for heavy trucks between the Canadian Maritime Provinces and the federal highway system.
“Their sentiments, their concerns have been largely ignored,” he said.
When I-395 was extended to Brewer and the Veterans Memorial Bridge was constructed, much of the truck traffic that had used Route 9 in Eddington to connect from Canada to Brewer started using Route 46 as a connector, which prompted town residents in 2000 to ask the DOT to build an alternative route.
More than 70 alternative routes have been considered over the last 13 years.
The DOT responded to all the negative reaction to its decision to change the preferred route nearly two years ago by agreeing to post public documents on the I-395-Route 9 study website to keep residents informed about the proposed road. The connector project is in step four of a seven-step process, the site states.
The DOT also announced in April that the scope and scale of the project have been reduced, changing it from a limited access highway to a two-lane rolling rural route, and residents have reacted by telling Goss that the $61 million for the project could be better spent.
The latest posting on the connector study website shows the Army Corps of Engineers determined on July 31 that “the preferred alternative … is the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative” of the three options on the table, Scott Rollins, DOT Assistant Director of the Bureau of Planning, said in a recent email.
“This determination is not a permit decision,” Jennifer McCarthy, Army Corps regulatory division chief, said in the announcement letter. “The determination will assist Maine DOT as they continue project planning and pursue future funding. Any future Corps permit decision will require the submission of a final complete permit application, evaluation of additional measures to further avoid and minimize impacts to aquatic and other environmental resources, a full public interest review, and the development of a detailed mitigation plan intended to compensate for any unavoidable impacts to wetlands and other aquatic resources.”
Brewer Mayor Kevin O’Connell thanked Verow for taking action in Augusta.
“Hopefully we can put this review to rest,” he said.