The Sierra Club places Maine’s East-west highway among the 50 worst transportation projects in the country. They have reviewed many similar projects, which is in part what they base their analysis upon.
The privately run, four-lane toll highway cutting through the Maine woods would have negative impacts on air and water quality and critical wildlife habitat according to the Sierra Club report. It suggested the use of a freight rail line parallel to the proposed route for passengers and fright. Railroads are more environmental friendly and save on carbon polution from car emissions. The Sierra Club advised that public investments should be focused on passenger and commuter rail. The idea is not new.
The Baldacci administration put into action a three-port strategy which enhanced Maine’s three ports so more cargo could be shipped to Maine and then be transported by freight across the country. The three-port strategy used Eastport, Searsport and Portland as the deep shipping ports that would be the starting or ending point for freight to go across country.
“If there is a need to move more goods across the state, it makes more sense to revitalize the existing freight rail line,” said Glen Brand, Sierra Club’s Maine Chapter director.
The proposed 220-mile highway would provide a direct highway route between Quebec and New Brunswick, Canada, via Maine.
The report stated that very similar highway proposals have been studied and rejected before. The 125th Legislature appropriated $300,000 for the feasibility study, but the money must be paid back by the developer if the highway gets the go-ahead.