PITTSFIELD, Maine — Cianbro Corp. CEO Peter Vigue said Wednesday he supported the decision of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee to repeal a feasibility study for the proposed east-west highway.
The leading proponent of the proposed highway said the project can still move forward despite the committee’s action.
“The study [by the state] is certainly not a prerequisite for a project like this being successful or going forward,” Vigue said in a telephone interview.
“This is something that can be done and be done by a third party,” he continued. “[The study is] certainly something that isn’t necessary to be done by the state of Maine. There are private entities that do that. Even the state of Maine wouldn’t have done that [on its own], they would’ve gone to a third party.”
The proposed corridor includes a 220-mile toll highway connecting Calais to Coburn Gore, making an east-west route from New Brunswick to Quebec.
The Transportation Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend repealing the requirement that the Maine Department of Transportation complete a $300,000 feasibility study for the proposed $2.1 billion private east-west highway.
“We support whatever decision the transportation committee or the state of Maine makes and respect their decision,” Vigue said.
He would not elaborate on what the next step for the project would be.
Vigue has argued that such a roadway would improve Maine’s overall economy, offering a particular boost for rural Maine communities devastated by the loss of traditional manufacturing and resource-based jobs. Details about the proposed route for the highway have yet to be announced. During a Penobscot County commissioners meeting last month, Vigue said Cianbro hopes to release a proposed route by the end of this year.
Environmental groups, small-business owners and residents of communities that could be affected by the project have opposed the plan through a variety of measures in the Legislature. Residents in lower Piscataquis County have been vocal in their opposition to the highway.
Sierra Club Maine Chapter Director Glen Brand said in an email that he is happy with the transportation committee’s recommendation.
“The unanimous vote to repeal the $300,000 taxpayer-funded investor study for the private east-west highway corridor is the first step towards stopping this boondoggle project,” said Brand.
Vigue has said that eminent domain will not be used in acquiring land for the project.
On Tuesday, Rep. Wayne Parry, R-Arundel, offered his motion in support of the bill “just to make this thing go away so we never have to hear ‘east-west feasibility study’ ever again.”
Despite the criticism, Vigue said he and his company will continue to do what he says is in the best interest of the state.
“We’ll be extremely courteous and respectful to the people who live here and we know the state of Maine is home. We understand that every well,” said Vigue. “I’m very sensitive to the people of the state and their needs.”
BDN writer Robert Long contributed to this report.