page last modified October 6, 2013   56519.

Positions of politicians on proposal for the EW Corridor

Pino Parkinson, who has been working independently of the Stop the East-West Corridor coalition in determining potential effects of the corridor, asked congressional office-holders and candidates for statements on their position on the proposal for the EW Corridor. The following are the texts of their responses and links to pdfs of their original letters

From Eliot Cutler:

We must always be open to efforts to jump start economic activity in Maine, but I want to know more about the proposed route for the highway, its environmental impacts and possible alternatives. The required environmental impact statement (EIS) would provide answers to those questions. If the EIS doesn't demonstrate significant economic benefits from a highway that would offset environmental impacts, it may well be that improved rail lines are a less expensive alternative that might make a lot more sense. Without the EIS, it is not possible to make a full determination.

In any event, the taxpayers of Maine should not be on the hook for this private project. That’s why I supported the legislature’s action to repeal the requirement that the Maine DOT complete a feasibility study.

Eliot Cutler

From Angus King:

Recently concerned constituents asked that I provide my opinion on the proposed East-West Corridor project. I am skeptical about the project, particularly in connection with its environmental impacts when compared to potential benefits to Maine. While there is no specific proposal on the table---or any request for federal involvement---I remain unconvinced of the project merits.

Public policy discussions regarding the East-West Corridor have occurred almost entirely at the state level. During the last legislative session in Maine, the legislature passed LD 985, which is a law that lifts an obligation on the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) to facilitate a feasibility study for the East-West Corridor. Now that the law has taken effect, the Maine DOT is no longer engaged in studying the project or materially supporting it.

Likewise the federal government has no involvement with the proposal at the present time. As your Senator, I will remain informed of discussions at the federal level regarding such a plan and especially if those discussions focus on winning federal support for the project. Due to the fact that there is currently no federal involvement in the project, however, and because the project remains largely undefined, I have not taken a final policy position on the idea. If or when it becomes a federal issue, I will certainly be in touch with individuals in Maine who have expressed concern about the project and develop a full understanding of its costs and potential benefits.

Thank you for soliciting my opinion on the corridor idea. If I can be of service to you in the future, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,
Angus S. King, Jr.
United States Senator

From Michael Michaud:

Proposals for an East-West highway connecting Maine with the Canadian Maritimes and the northern parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and New York have been introduced for decades, but due to funding, politics, and concerns about the environment, the plans have never come to fruition. The latest proposal for such a highway comes from Peter Vigue, CEO of the Cianbro Corporation. His plan calls for the construction of a 220-mile toll highway across Maine. The project is expected to cost $2 billion which Cianbro intends to raise through private funding.

Supporters of the highway point to greater investments that could flow to Maine, while local residents have raised concerns about potential impacts to their homes, communities, and the environment. The specific route, impacts, and further details of the highway remain largely undefined. As such, I oppose this private highway proposal. Instead I support greater investment in Maine's East-West rail infrastructure, specifically, connecting our existing railroad network with the Port of Eastport.

Eastport is the easternmost port and the deepest natural seaport in the continental US and Canada. The port's competitiveness, however, has been significantly hindered by its lack of access to rail. Extending a rail link to Eastport will connect the harbor to western markets throughout the US and Canada, improve our import-export markets with Europe and South America, and provide economic benefits to businesses and manufacturers throughout Maine. As negotiations for the U.S.-EU trade agreement get underway, connecting Eastport via rail to the rest of the state, pa•ticularly our manufacturers, will become increasingly important. It is this form of infrastructure investment I believe our state needs most.

Once again thank you for contacting me on this issue. Please know that I will keep your thoughtful comments in mind should the East-West Highway proposal become a federal issue.

Michael H. Michaud
Member of Congress

From Chellie Pingree:

I am writing to provide you, and the attendees of the MOFGA Common Ground Fair, with my thoughts about the proposed East-West Highway.

There have been proposals to build an East-West highway across the central portion of Maine since at least the 1960s. Those discussions have always revolved around the use of public funds to build the road, and the costs and benefits to the people of Maine. Each time a public East-West highway has been proposed in the past, Mainers decided not to move forward with the project.

As you know, the current proposal being discussed is a privately financed multi-lane toll-highway from Calais to Coburn Gore. I have a number of concerns about this proposal. Project details have changed over time so that it is difficult to know exactly what the final project will look like: how wide it will be, what other kinds of infrastructure will be buried along the route, and so on. Despite the private financing of the proposed road, the project would cross near the pristine freshwater rivers and lakes that dot the center of the state, and would require significant study, analysis, and involvement under existing law by both state and federal environmental regulators.

Additionally, the project would require users to pay tolls, not to the Maine Turnpike Authority, which uses toll revenue to fund infrastructure projects on 1-95, but to a private corporation--for its own profit. As we all were reminded this summer, there is an existing freight rail network across the center of the state. It is my view that we need to be spending public dollars and time working to improve the safety and stability of our aging rail system.

Thank you for your work on this important issue. I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts. Please feel free to contact me, or my office in the future if we can be of assistance.

Chellie Pingree
Member of Congress

We, the citizens of Maine, love the place we call home. Our sense of place is what defines us. When it's gone, it's gone forever.