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Highway Expansion

Maine DOT Bullies Local Planners Into Voting for Highway Expansion

4:17 PM EDT on April 7, 2016

Here's a story about how DOTs can ram through road projects that locals don't even want.

cartoon_road
Maine DOT's jolly logo for a road project nobody wants.

Regional planners in Bangor, Maine, say they were forced to approve a highway expansion project because the state DOT threatened to pull all of the region's transportation funding.

The 395-Route 9 Connector is a $61 million project that will link two other highways and speed freight truck trips to and from Canada. Towns in the footprint of the project, which would demolish eight homes, say it's not needed and the money would be better spent on other things. Maine DOT has not been deterred.

Representatives from the Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System -- the regional planning agency -- told the Bangor Daily News they were “held hostage" by state officials who said they would withhold $57 million in region transportation funds if the highway wasn't approved.

The state had added the highway project to its spending plan last summer. But officials in the Bangor area resisted adding the project to their own transportation plan. Without the regional agency's approval, the state could not get the final go-ahead for the project from the Federal Highway Administration.

Linda Johns, who represents the town of Brewer for the regional agency, said the $61 million would be better spent on more pressing local needs and that traffic has declined since the project was first proposed 16 years ago, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Brewer City Manager Steve Bost described the DOT as “an unyielding bureaucracy that is unwilling to listen and unwilling to move”

“Watching this unfold today, in my humble opinion, is precisely why people have lost faith in government," he said.

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