BREWER, Maine — The Maine Department of Transportation wants to amend its three-year work plan unveiled in January by adding the planned Interstate 395-Route 9 connector, and is asking for comments before making a decision.
Eddington residents asked for and were granted an extension after hearing that the comment period was ending on Tuesday.
“The 10-day public comment period on the amendment has been extended from Aug. 25, 2015 to Sept. 8, 2015,” Nathan Howard, the new project manager for the planned $61 million project, said in an email. The project was initiated in 2000.
Howard replaces Russell Charette, who is retiring.
The connector is envisioned as a means to ease heavy truck traffic between the Canadian Maritimes and the U.S. federal highway system. The state’s preferred route would extend I-395 where it currently ends at Wilson Street and would roughly follow the Holden-Brewer line until entering Eddington and connecting with 4.5 miles of rebuilt Route 9.
The three-year DOT work plan unveiled in January is valued at about $2 billion and includes more than 1,900 projects for 2015, 2016 and 2017. However, only the projects listed for 2015 are firmly funded and scheduled, while projects planned for the latter two years still are subject to change depending on funding, prices, permitting and weather.
The DOT amendment asks for $250,000 to prepare preliminary engineering and right-of-way documents, the request states.
Eddington planner Gretchen Heldmann wrote Howard and Charette letters expressing concern that she and others who oppose the planned connector did not have an opportunity to comment in April when the Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System published an amendment request to its State Transportation Improvement Program because opponents did not hear about it.
“The idea that since no one commented on the BACTS TIP means there’s no public opposition is completely absurd and false,” Heldmann said in an Aug. 19 letter. “What it means is that no one knew it was a part of this process.”
Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System, or BACTS, is an organization designated by the federal and state government to carry out transportation planning in Greater Bangor.
The amendment to the DOT’s statewide transportation improvement plan, or STIP, was put forward after the BACTS amendment.
“A STIP Amendment is required for the next phase before [Federal Highway Administration] can issue their Record of Decision,” Charette said in an Aug. 19 letter to Heldmann.
The Record of Decision is the final step in the Environmental Impact Statement process and identifies the selected alternative, presents the basis for the decision, identifies the alternatives considered, specifies the “environmentally preferable alternative,” and provides information to avoid, minimize and compensate for environmental impacts, the Maine DOT’s I-395-Route 9 connector website states.
It is the sixth of seven steps needed to complete the project.
Those who would like to issue comments on whether to add the I-395-Route 9 connector project to the DOT’s amendment work plan can send them to: Ben Condon, Bureau of Transportation Systems Planning, Maine Department of Transportation, 16 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333-0016; or call 592-0921, TDD Telephone 287-3392; or by email to email@example.com.