EDDINGTON, Maine — The Maine Department of Transportation is coming to town Wednesday to provide updated information on the permitted Interstate 395/Route 9 connector, receive public comments and answer questions about the controversial project.
“The Maine Department of Transportation will discuss the I-395/Route 9 Transportation Study and Federal Highway Administration’s recent decision approving Alternative 2B-2 as the build alternative,” states a public notice announcing the meeting. “MaineDOT will also describe the process moving forward, as the study now transitions into a project.”
The public meeting will be held 6-8 p.m. at Eddington Elementary School.
Department of Transportation staff will be available for individual questions before the meeting, starting at 5 p.m., as well as after the meeting, “until all individual questions are addressed,” a press release from Ted Talbot, Department of Transportation spokesman, states.
The department was awarded federal approval of the project on June 23, when the Federal Highway Administration issued a record of decision identifying the state’s preferred route, Alternative 2B-2, as the environmentally preferred alternative for the estimated $61 million project.
“The permitting for 2B-2 is complete,” Nathan Howard, Department of Transportation project manager, said Tuesday in an email.
The planned route extends I-395 where it ends at Wilson Street in Brewer and roughly follows the Holden-Brewer line until entering Eddington and connecting with Route 9, where a stop sign will be added.
The two-lane, limited access road is designed to ease heavy truck traffic and improve safety on nearby routes 46 and 1A, while also creating a more direct link from Canada to the U.S. highway system.
Residents and community leaders in Brewer, Eddington and Holden have expressed concerns about the project that they say is being forced down their throats. An estimated eight homes will be “displaced” and another 54 properties in the three neighboring communities will be affected, according to concept plans posted on the state’s I-395/Route 9 connector website.
Brewer City Manager Steve Bost and City Councilor Kevin O’Connell both said no one at the state or federal level is listening to local people, so they see no point in attending the meeting.
“Why [go]?” O’Connell asked.
“I thought about going, but my points haven’t changed, and the [Department of Transportation] lineup hasn’t changed, so other than to hear myself talk I’m not sure that it would be time well spent,” Bost said in a Tuesday email. “Ironically, the buzz right now is how unsafe 1A has become, particularly through Holden. But of course there is no money to address key problem areas. Oh wait, I know where you could find a cool $67 million right now!”
Bost and O’Connell said they lost all confidence in the process in March when the Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System’s policy committee members said they felt forced to endorse the road project when state officials told them they would lose $57 million in regional road project funding if they didn’t.
Members of the committee had asked that the project be separated from other projects at the March meeting, but state and federal officials said it was all or nothing. The regional project funding includes $250,000 to prepare preliminary engineering and right-of-way documents for the connector.
What is next in the process and the estimated timeline also will be discussed.
“Members of MaineDOT’s Bureau of Planning (responsible for the study), Bureau of Project Development (responsible to design and construct the project), and the Property Office (responsible for right-of-way and property impacts) will be available to present and answer questions,” Talbot said.
The Department of Transportation project manager said he also has asked the consultant study manager to attend.
“I have not received any questions from residents,” Howard said.