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Maine has a well-reasoned legal foundation in its "Sensible Transportation Policies Act," including recent (2011) revisions. (See the Act, a handbook about its implementation, and further links on the Documents (PDFs) page under Legal Documents.)
It affirms policy that speaks against not only the statutory context for the East-West Corridor but for other transportation projects that might fall under the guise of a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). A few excerpts below show that support for this highway by any State officials is unjustified. Commissioner Gebhardt's public enthusiasm for Vigue's Highway and his public celebration of the legislature's direction for the state to spend $300k on a study of the roadway flies directly in the face of this policy.
In short, the Sensible Transportation Policies Act establishes that highway expansion is not the cornerstone of Maine's transportation policy for three principal reasons: (1) harm to the environment, (2) expanding dependence on foreign oil, and (3) the inefficiency of highways for moving goods and people. It says that a new highway can be considered only after all other possibilities have been examined and that all investments in infrastructure must be strategic and driven by consideration of public benefit---in particular by supporting economic expansion.
The main part of the act was adopted in 1991 and contains a clear framework for all transportation policy:
"2. Purposes and findings. The people of the State find that decisions regarding the State's transportation network are vital to the well-being of Maine citizens, to the economic health of the State and to the quality of life that the citizens treasure and seek to protect.
The people also find that these decisions have profound, long-lasting and sometimes detrimental impacts on the natural resources of the State, including its air quality, land and water.
The people further find that substantial portions of the state highway system are in disrepair and improvements to the State's roads and bridges are necessary to provide a safe, efficient, and adequate transportation network throughout the State.
The people further find that the State's transportation network is heavily dependent on foreign oil, that such reliance is detrimental to the health of the State's economy and that the health and long-term stability of the State's economy require increased reliance on more efficient forms of transportation.
The people further find that improvements to the transportation network are necessary to meet the diverse transportation needs of the people of the State, including rural and urban populations and the unique mobility requirements of the elderly and disabled.
The people further find that the decisions of state agencies regarding transportation needs and facilities are often made in isolation, without sufficient comprehensive planning and opportunity for meaningful public input and guidance.
"3. Transportation policy. It is the policy of the State that transportation planning decisions, capital investment decisions and project decisions must:
A. Minimize the harmful effects of transportation on public health and on air and water quality, land use and other natural resources; [RR 1991, c. 2, §88 (COR).]
B. Require that the full range of reasonable transportation alternatives be evaluated for all significant highway construction or reconstruction projects and give preference to transportation system management options, demand management strategies, improvements to the existing system, and other transportation modes before increasing highway capacity through road building activities; [RR 1991, c. 2, §88 (COR).]"
My further research on Maine's stautes and on other legal and widely accepted standards for "private roads" adds further certainty that
In other words, all the issues and concerns that thousands across the state have raised in connection with Vigue's E/W Highway are already official state policy by law, not by discretion of the Comissioner or even the Governor. Under law all public officials have a duty to uphold and further these principals.
And in light of this policy, a resolution directing the MDOT to invest no further resources or time in the E/W Highway is not even needed; all that is needed is a call for enforcement of what is already law, a course correction by MDOT to bring its own actions in compliance with statutory policy.
See also Rights-Based Ordinances