For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - Governor LePage today signed into law a bill that orders a feasibility study of an east-west highway across Maine. The proposal comes after much debate and consideration in the Legislature's Transportation Committee and in the full House and Senate.
The measure, LD 1671, is entitled "An Act To Provide Funding to the Department of Transportation for a Feasibility Study of an East-West Highway" and appropriates approximately $300,000 for the study. Subjects of the study will include environmental impact, land acquisition and economic benefits.
"An important thing to remember is that the state's share of that cost is only $60,000, or one-fifth of the total cost of the study, thanks to available federal funds," said Rep. Rich Cebra (R-Naples), House chair of the Transportation Committee.
Furthermore, to address concerns about costs, Rep. Cebra added an amendment to the original bill that requires the construction company with the winning bid to repay the state if the state gives final authorization to proceed with construction.
"This is going to finally put to rest the decades-old question of whether an east-west highway is a viable project," he said. "If we don't allow the highway, we know that at least we considered it carefully. If we do, it will have cost us nothing. The road would be built with private funds. It's a win-win for the people of Maine."
Preliminary research and testimony indicate that many businesses that transport goods west from Canada would value a route that opens up destinations in northern New England, New York, Montreal and Ontario.
Rep. Alexander Willette (R-Mapleton) was optimistic about the bill. "One very encouraging thing for me is the fact that a private company wants to invest in infrastructure," said Rep. Willette, who serves on the Transportation Committee. "It tells me that there is a real demand for this highway, which in turn means jobs and economic growth for rural Maine." ###
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445