October 17, 2018
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I-395 extension project wins $25M grant, but not everyone’s happy about it

Courtesy image | BDN
Courtesy image | BDN
The controversial Interstate 395-Route 9 connector project has been given a $25 million grant.

Several million dollars in funding have been secured to link Interstate 395 with Route 9 — a controversial proposed extension that has been almost 20 years in the making and is opposed by most abutters.

The project received a $25 million federal grant to build a two-lane connector between I-395 and Route 9 in Eddington, snaking from where the interstate ends at Wilson Street in Brewer along the Holden-Brewer line, according to Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

Advocates for the project, including Poliquin, have said the extension will help streamline truckers’ access to the Canadian border and improve roadway safety by easing traffic on nearby Routes 1A and 46.

The 2nd District congressman said Friday the extension “will provide the missing link between these two major arteries in Maine and open up better access to markets and commerce for our Maine businesses.”

But area residents aren’t convinced of the project’s merits or satisfied with how its being planned.

“The principle concern we have is it’s a project that doesn’t make sense,” Brewer City Manager Stephen Bost said Friday. “We think it’s a road in search of a purpose,”

Poliquin’s announcement came as a surprise to Bost, who said he wasn’t aware that funding was being sought, much less that it had been secured. According to Poliquin’s office, the Maine Department of Transportation applied for the federal grant.

The proposed six-mile connector known as 2B-2 cuts through Brewer and Holden. It is expected to displace some residents and affect nearly 60 property owners with land on or near the proposed route. The project will require acquiring nearly 200 acres in land rights-of-way — a big ask that, in part, spurred Brewer and Holden to vote against the proposal in years past. Eddington selectmen provisionally supported the connector.

MDOT, in 2016 and 2017, cited an increase in traffic as a reason for the connector, and argues that the connector will help to lessen abnormally high accident rates at some area intersections. Early last year, MDOT announced it would start a three-year, $7.25 million work plan to begin building the road.

A MDOT official did not immediately return a phone call Friday seeking comment.

The state has previously pegged the total cost of the project to be in the realm of $61 million, with a completion date around 2025. Later this month, MDOT will host a public forum in Eddington to update area residents on the status of the project.

Bost, along with Eddington Town Manager Russell Smith, said they still don’t quite understand why the project is being backed by Poliquin and the MDOT.

“That’s been a mystery to us from the beginning,” Bost said. “From the very beginning, I’ve made no secret about my frustration with the lack of candor by the MDOT and their willingness to make any adjustments based upon the opposition from the host communities.”

With the almost unilateral lack of local support, Smith said he’s not quite sure who is propelling the project forward.

“Somebody is behind it to get this done, but I’m not sure who it is,” he said.

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