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Maine citizens from all over the State came together to form Stop the East-West Corridor in early 2012 to address concerns about a proposal to build an East-West Transportation, Communications, and Utilities Corridor running through Maine and seriously affecting many communities all across the state.About us--our mission.
Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro Corporation, proposes building a 500- to 2000-foot-wide fenced swath that would bisect Maine from border to border--from Coburn Gore to Calais. For now, the proposal includes a private, gated toll highway to accommodate high-speed truck traffic along that swath; Vigue is vague about whether it would, as expected, eventually incorporate pipelines in addition to truck traffic to transport oil and natural gas from Alberta and fracking fields in Quebec and New Brunswick or other natural resources from Maine. This could be the largest development project that the State of Maine has ever seen. [more about the corridor]
We are opposed to this corridor for many reasons. While it may benefit Canadian and a few Maine corporate interests, it does not offer economic benefit to Maine citizens, and it will seriously degrade quality of life and environmental conditions for people and wildlife alike, robbing the State of features valuable to tourism.
Cianbro’s project promoter Darryl Brown tells audiences his route planners are trying to avoid conservation land, wetlands, vernal pools, and designated wildlife management areas as much as possible; but common sense tells us that highways built for high-speed heavyweight tandem-truck traffic cannot weave around every environmentally sensitive feature along the way. Instead, wetlands would be filled in; ramps, roadbeds, and bridge abutments would be built up; asphalt would be mixed; interchanges and service facilities would be developed. Where would all that sand and gravel come from? How much of Maine's uniquely well-preserved glacial landscape would be scraped up and used to build the highway? What about the aquifers under the gravel, the streamsheds, lakes, and ponds fed by them? What will happen to the cold-water fisheries? What besides Asian commodities and Canadian products will trucks be carrying? Accidents involving heavy trucks have heavy consequences. What about chemical and fuel spills, de-icing and runoff? The environmental impacts could be disastrous and very expensive if not impossible to clean up, affecting the whole region downstream to the coast.
We are not opposed to road development and other improvements that would better connect Maine with Canada and with markets in the U.S. But such a sensitively routed, state-of-the-art highway as proposed would be expensive to build---over four times the cost of improving east-west rail lines between Montreal and eastern Canada, as estimated by the Sierra Club. Rail transport is exponentially safer than truck transport, with far less environmental impact. Many people ask, why is rail not good enough to meet demand for faster east-west freight transport? Proponents of the Corridor say trucks do better at meeting global demand for just-in-time delivery. Or is there something else in the pipeline? Maine's existing east-west rail lines, running not far north of the proposed Corridor route, are already being used to transport crude oil from the Midwest and Alberta (including at least one test run of tar-sands oil) to the Irving refinery in St. John.
The proposed route aligns with convenient export of other natural resources in eastern and northern Maine, increasingly valuable in the global economy. Could the Corridor open the door to more wind farms and transmission lines? What about eastern Maine's abundant supply of fresh water, not just for human consumption but for gas fracking?
Cianbro is promoting the Corridor as a construction and economic development project; who are the investors? As some have asked, is it possible a swath across Maine might belong to someone from China? Cianbro representatives admit that foreign ownership is not only possible but likely.
(See more about such concerns in this Bangor Daily News OpEd, Crosen.)
Members of both parties have said it won't work in Maine. Experts agree. See for yourself:
The Maine State Legislature will be considering several bills dealing with the East-West Corridor in the coming months. Several have already been printed, including a bill (LD 165) that would prohibit the use of eminent domain to seize land for a private highway project. Here’s NRCM testimony on that bill. Other bills likely to appear in the weeks ahead propose to prohibit the State from spending $300,000 appropriated last year for a financial feasibility study for the corridor. We urge Maine citizens to weigh in on these bills (see Legislative action and Contact Legislators).