In light of recent concerns of State Senator Doug Thomas (R-Ripley) and others, Governor Paul LePage announced today that Maine Department of Transportation officials will continue to gather information regarding the proposed East West Highway before any action is taken.
The Governor said on Tuesday he would like to ensure Mainers that a thorough and thoughtful process will take place, which could take years, before the project begins.
“The East West Highway is an idea that’s been around for a dozen years and that’s what it is, an idea,” said Governor LePage. “We must explore the facts and go on a fact finding mission, and that is what the state is doing.”
On Monday, Sen. Thomas requested to place the East West Highway Financial Feasibility Study on hold. Both the Governor and MaineDOT Commissioner agree the outcome of this study, all studies, needs to be done in an atmosphere of trust and meaningful deliberation that should include public input.
MaineDOT officials continue to define the scope of this effort and have not moved forward to the point of implementation.
“Right now, we need to decide where we want to put an East West Highway, is it feasible and what would the costs be. These are unknowns,” Governor LePage said.
“We acknowledge and value the concerns of Sen. Thomas and his constituents,” said MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt. “Our job, of course, is to conduct the economic feasibility study in a fair and responsible manner, as directed by the 125th Legislature. In doing so, we also believe there are some information deficiencies, especially regarding connections from the proposed road to public transportation infrastructure in both Maine and Canada.”
Commissioner Bernhardt stated, “This warrants communicating with the Transportation Committee about the need for additional time to conduct a prudent and useful study.”
On March 22, 2012 the second regular session of the 125th Legislature authorized the expenditure of $300,000 for an independent feasibility study of a proposal to build an east-west toll road from Calais to Coburn-Gore, a distance of approximately 220 miles.
The 125th Legislature, by enacting LD 1671, “An Act To Provide Funding to the Department of Transportation for a Feasibility Study of an East-West Highway,” mandated the study’s focus be solely on the economic feasibility of this proposed highway.