Environmentalists blast east-west toll road proposal in Maine

Environmental groups blasted a proposal to build a 220-mile privately funded toll road in Maine that would connect the state with Canada, claiming the highway would pose a threat to the state’s environment and tourism economy, according to a Business Week report.

The idea of an east-west highway across Maine has been debated for more than 50 years. Federal and state governments can’t afford to build such a highway, said Peter Vigue, who is spearheading the proposal as CEO and chairman of the Pittsfield-based Cianbro Corp. construction company. Vigue proposes to build the toll road at a cost of $2 billion.

The Maine legislature appropriated $300,000 for a feasibility study on building the highway which will create a direct link from Calais, on the New Brunswick border in eastern Maine, to Coburn Gore along the Quebec border in the west.

Opponents to the highway said it would cross or come close to more than 60 significant conservation and recreation areas.

Representatives of the Forest Ecology Network and Restore: The North Woods, said in a press conference that the proposed four-lane highway’s right of way could also serve as a corridor for oil and natural gas pipelines and large electrical transmission lines.

“By making Maine just one more drive-thru state, the east-west highway and corridor could destroy some of Maine’s best natural assets and put the state at a competitive disadvantage,” Jym St. Pierre, director of Restore: The North Woods said.

Vigue countered that any environmental impacts would be minimized and that the road would provide an economic boost to Maine, adding that there are no plans in the works for pipelines or transmission lines on the 500-ft.-wide corridor.

The feasibility study is due to be released in January.

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