Protesters Oppose East-West Highway at Conference about Maine- Canada Commerce
McCrea, Nick, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)
ORONO, Maine -- While business and government officials from Maine and Canada gathered Tuesday morning at the University of Maine to discuss how to spur economic growth in the Atlantic region, a small cadre of central Maine residents outside the conference decried one of the proposals aimed at reaching that goal -- an east- west highway through Maine's interior.
Tuesday was the second day of the Cross-Border Economic Integration in the Northeast Conference, which featured a presentation from Cianbro Chairman and CEO Peter Vigue about plans for a privately funded 220-mile Maine toll highway connecting New Brunswick to Quebec.
Vigue said Tuesday afternoon that the highway idea is "very attractive" to the provinces of eastern Canada and would bring jobs and increased potential for tourism to Maine communities. The project also would open up new lanes for exportation of Maine goods to the provinces and the Midwest, Vigue said.
"This is a project we've worked at now for many years, and in recent years the economy has started to improve and turn around, and we began to really understand the demand for this corridor and this highway," he said.
But it's a need that protesters displaying signs Tuesday outside Wells Conference Center, where the event was held, don't see.
Peter Brenc of Dover-Foxcroft, David Bessler of Atkinson and Peter Eldredge of Guilford argued that Cianbro has yet to prove towns surrounding the route of the highway would see increased prosperity because of its existence.
Brenc argued that Interstate 95 has been routing traffic through Howland and Millinocket for decades and that the highway hasn't helped those "ghost towns" through economic hardship.
Bessler said Vigue has been vague about how the highway will draw business to Maine and that the temporary construction jobs it will create will go away after a few years. …