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Gubernatorial Candidate Profile: East-West Highway 

In our profile of the candidates for governor, we asked all of them: “Do you support the construction of an East – West highway in Maine? Why? Or why not?”

Here are the responses from Republican Paul LePage, Democrat Mike Michaud and Independent Eliot Cutler:

Paul LePage: “Well, you know I’ve looked at it when it was discussed, it’s been dead for a year and I don’t know of anyone who is working on it. An East-West highway would do some good. If the people in the area don’t want it, I am not one who wants to force feed people. If they want it I will sit down and we will work on it, we will see if it is doable. It they don’t want it, I will go and find another project that people are really interested in. At the present time I am told that their is nobody working on it and nobody is interested on it. And so I am not going to reactivate it, unless people want it. Right now, the energy is being put into Portland, in the port and Eastport, there is a lot of activity there. I think that those are very viable economic engines that we can push forward for the prosperity of Maine.”

Mike Michaud: “I am opposed to the private sector East-West highway proposal. I do not know how they are going to build an East-West highway, with the environmental regulations that we have on the books. But I am opposed to using the state’s eminent domain authority for any East-West highway proposal for a private entity, and I don’t know how it is going to be built without that. What I am a very strong supporter of is actually East-West rail system, with the European trade deal that is currently being negotiated at the federal level right now, which will probably happen within a couple of years. And you look at where Eastport, Searsport and the port of Portland Maine is perfectly situated to deal with that trade deal and shipment. So what the state has to do, particularly for Eastport, which is the deepest water port on the East Coast that doesn’t have to be dredged, is the state should build up that rail line, using the Maine Army National Guard. They can do it as a training project, you have free equipment, free man hours. The only thing that they can’t do is use their funding for materials, but there are the federal dollars available. So that is a great opportunity to help the state with our ports, particularly over in Washington County.”

Eliot Cutler: “I certainly don’t support it. First of all, Jon, we got to fix the roads that we got. Our roads are a mess, our bridges are among the most unsafe of any state in America. We have gone three and a half years without borrowing money to fix our roads and bridges, even know Maine people have supported investments. The first thing we need to do is fix our roads and bridges before we start building new ones. Secondly, I think that we need to fix our rail system. Some of our most competitive advantages are in and around our ports. But, our ports are not well enough connected by rail to the rest of North America. We need to build 24 mile rail in Eastport. We need to make sure that the Searsport rail connection is working well. And we need to complete the job of connecting the Portland rail link. So, before we even think about doing anything else, we have a huge set of capital investments to make. If this East-West highway proposal ever comes back, it had better come back with a completed environmental impact statement where people know where the road is supposed to go. People know what the impacts are going to be, and where people know what the alternatives are. Right now, I think to say that it is on the back burner would be an over statement.”

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