AUGUSTA, Maine — State and local officials from Aroostook County met with Gov. John Baldacci this week to discuss a plan to push forward with an Aroostook County transportation project.
During a meeting in his office Wednesday with stakeholders who will be affected by the project, Baldacci announced that he had instructed the Maine Department of Transportation to advance work on the Caribou Connector that is included in the Aroostook County Transportation Study so that construction can begin in 2010.
The project involves building a new controlled-access highway between Route 161 and U.S. Route 1 in Caribou to reduce travel time, enhance public safety and improve traffic flow in downtown Caribou. The new route will take the bulk of traffic around the downtown area.
The meeting was arranged by Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, and other members of the Aroostook County legislative delegation. State DOT Commissioner David Cole also was present, and town officials and civic leaders from Houlton, Fort Kent, Caribou and Presque Isle participated by telephone.
“It’s a start of the expansion of [Interstate] 95 north of Houlton, and it has to begin somewhere,” said Martin.
“This segment of the Aroostook County Transportation Study is ready to go forward, and the people of Aroostook County are eager for work to begin,” Baldacci said in a press release this week. “The Caribou Connector will play an important role in the infrastructure development planned in Aroostook County, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Maine legislators, congressional delegation and people of The County to improve the critical connections that will open up new opportunities in the region.”
The DOT will expedite construction of the Caribou Connector in the 2010 construction season using existing federal resources obtained by Maine’s congressional delegation, according to the press release.
The release indicated the DOT and the Federal Highway Administration received an alignment approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Sept. 18, 2008, for the Caribou segment. They still were awaiting a similar approval from the corps regarding the Presque Isle Bypass Segment. Planning work on the Presque Isle segment is expected to be complete by the 2011 construction season.
The two segments within the Caribou Connector are estimated to cost $20 million.