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Stop the East-West Corridor members speak to related bills

    AUGUSTA — On April 30, citizens from across Maine spoke from their hearts about how the proposed East-West Corridor may affect them.  Peter Vigue and Darryl Brown from Cianbro Corporation have been traveling the state, promoting the 220-mile “Transportation, Communication, and Utility Corridor” as an economic necessity for Mainers.

    However, many Mainers traveled to Augusta to let members of the Transportation Committee know that they did not agree. Testimonies ranged from business owners and college students, to retired people and environmentalists. One thing was clear, this is not just about choosing jobs or the environment. Opponents argued that it is also about saving taxpayers money and keeping the public informed. Opponents said a new East-West Highway Corridor is not needed, and would be bad for the environment and the economy. They have Maine Department of Transportation studies to back them up.
    In 1999 the State of Maine commissioned the MDOT to study a Maine East-West Highway. The report, over 700 pages long, explored five options to improve East-West transportation. One of the options was a new build toll highway from Calais to Coburn Gore. Dover-Foxcroft resident Gene Ripley, an organic farmer and entrepreneur, has read that study. He said, “The argument for this project is that it will bring jobs and economic development, but it’s a false argument. The State of Maine did a Economic Impact Analysis of an East-West Highway in 1999 that found three things: There would be no real economic benefit to Maine; that rural towns would see major job loss and loss of businesses; and that therefore such a highway was against Maine’s transportation priorities. It’s unfathomable to me why we’re even entertaining this proposal.”
    Chris Buchanan, statewide coordinator for Stop the East-West Corridor, agrees. “The conclusions were very clear,” she said. “The study found that the new build route from Calais to Coburn Gore would have an overall negative economic impact statewide, especially to Washington County because of the ‘bypass effect,’” she said. 
    The “bypass effect” is when communities lose businesses because they lose traffic. “Washington County is already served primarily by East-West roads, so they’d be hit the hardest,” she said. “The study also found that this new build route would not significantly boost manufacturing, would not increase population in rural towns, and would have the most environmental impact of all the routes considered. So, the state decided to upgrade Route 9 and Route 2 to best serve all Mainers. Those upgrades are still happening.”
    Patti Dowse of Cambridge owns Erda, a handbag manufacturing business. She said, “As a small business owner, I am opposed to the idea of carving our beautiful landscape up to benefit a few large Canadian companies. My business transportation needs are met just fine by UPS and FedEx and the Post Office. Most small businesses, the most common kind we have in Maine, have no use for tandem tractor trailers.”
    Peggy Gannon, an activist and organic farmer from Palmyra, said, “The proposed East-West corridor offers no economic benefit to the state of Maine. It draws a scar across the state from a wound that will never heal. Where will it originate? Canada has no plan to build a link. Where will it terminate? What will it transport? Filthy tar sands sludge destined to contaminate our aquifers? There’s no gain here.”
    Keith Cook from Fairfield said, “Remember that Maine’s largest industry is tourism. How many tourists want to come to enjoy the re-creation and restoration found in Maine’s wild lands when it looks like so many other states that have succumbed to industrial sprawl. Let’s continue to promote Maine’s Mystique.  Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot and give it away to Canadian banks and oil companies.”
    John Waters, a scientist, activist, educator, and writer from Greene, said, “This proposed project represents the latest in an ongoing barrage of corporate-engineered, taxpayer-subsidized neocolonialistic debacles that serve to benefit only Wall Street and a relative handful of opportunistic politicos at the utter and total expense of Maine’s ecosystems, wildlife and working populace. Protect the land, protect the people, protect our heritage. Just say ‘no!’ to the East-West Corridor!”
    Buchanan calls the Cianbro proposal “propaganda.” “It is absurd that simply through exposure to effective propaganda and a sales pitch about saving Maine’s economy, an unprecedented project that was studied and projected to harm the economy has any viability. The Cianbro propaganda is deluding us into believing there is a need when in fact there is none.”  
    Buchanan blames the Public-Private-Partnership, or PPP law, for allowing this to happen. Cianbro lobbyist Tim Walton worked with MDOT and others to write the PPP law in 2010. The law allows for up to 50 percent public funding of a private infrastructure project like the one Cianbro is proposing. It also includes a confidentiality clause that prevents the public from accessing information until the project has been approved by MDOT and sent to the appropriate legislative committee for a public hearing. The Conceptual Feasibility study of an East-West Highway completed for Cianbro by the Louis Berger Group in 2008 also assumes up to 50 percent public financing of investor debt.
    In her testimony, Buchanan asked the Transportation Committee to rescind the investor-grade financial feasibility study, repeal the PPP law, and strengthen the Maine Sensible Transportation Policy Act to include all significant transportation projects.  “MDOT initiated projects and the Maine Turnpike Authority are listed [under the Sensible Transportation Policy Act], but other non-MDOT initiated projects are not.  These actions will ensure that significant transportation projects are well planned, respect the best interest of Mainers, and are publically informed.”
    Stop the East-West Corridor is a coalition of Maine citizens dedicated to raising awareness, fostering open communication, and requesting transparency about the East-West Corridor proposed by the Cianbro Corporation. Their mission is to stop the East-West Corridor by demonstrating that the project is not in the interest of Maine and that Maine-citizen stakeholders do not want it. For more information about Stop the East-West Corridor, visit

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