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Plan to Speed Travel With Toll Road in Maine Hits a Nerve
by Katharine Q. Seelye
CHARLESTON, Me. — Central Maine is so vast and so empty, with so few roads, that it has given rise to a classic bit of New England humor. An old Yankee is asked for directions, whereupon he replies, “You can’t get there from here.”
The problem in Maine is that most of its major roads run north-south. Very few run east-west, which makes traversing the state one long, slow slog.
Peter Vigue, the chairman and chief executive of the Cianbro Corporation, a large engineering and construction company based in Maine, is hoping to change that. He has proposed a $2 billion private toll road running 220 miles across the state.
He says it could make Maine a vital link in the global economy, speeding commerce across the Northeastern United States to markets in the Midwest, as well as help revitalize the lagging local economy.
Environmentalists say the road would be a “nightmare” for the land, air and animal habitats as well as for recreational activities. The private financing has also raised red flags. A 2009 report by the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund found that some other privately financed toll roads had failed, leaving taxpayers responsible.