Going East To West In Maine Might Get Better With Private Toll Road
There is no way that an east-west highway across Maine can be anything but a positive one for economic and logistical reasons. How it has been this long for such a road to be placed in Maine is a political story for a book.
The problem in Maine is that most of its major roads run north-south. Very few run east-west, which makes traversing the state one long, slow slog.
Peter Vigue, the chairman and chief executive of the Cianbro Corporation, a large engineering and construction company based in Maine, is hoping to change that. He has proposed a $2 billion private toll road running 220 miles across the state.
He says it could make Maine a vital link in the global economy, speeding commerce across the Northeastern United States to markets in the Midwest, as well as help revitalize the lagging local economy.
The expansions of the Panama and Suez Canals make this highway even more urgent, he said in an interview last week. Bigger ships from around the world, carrying more cargo containers, will be looking for bigger, less congested ports on the East Coast, he said, and Maine already has one in Eastport.
The idea of an east-west highway has been kicking around for decades. But Mr. Vigue’s proposal stands a good chance of becoming reality. As such, it has struck a raw nerve within the Maine psyche and has prompted a fierce debate over the state’s brand, character and future.
Opponents say a major thoroughfare slicing through the state would destroy the very qualities of peacefulness, natural beauty and remoteness that make this region desirable in the first place.
“It would just completely change ‘the way life should be,’ ” said Chris Buchanan, referring to the state’s unofficial slogan. Ms. Buchanan is the statewide coordinator for Stop the Corridor, a coalition opposing the highway.
“Maine is a rural state,” she said, “and this is a businessman who is trying to make it the Northeast trade gateway.”
That is exactly what others hope Mr. Vigue (pronounced VIG-you) can achieve.