For as long as I can remember, our politicians and business leaders have been trying to convince the rest of us that what Maine really needs is an East-West highway. So far, all we’ve gotten from years of talk is just a lot more talk. The talk has now gone on so long and produced so little that I’m convinced there will be a bridge between Harpswell and Halifax before the East-West Highway reaches Santa’s Village in Jefferson, NH.
I was reminded of the fanciful East-West Highway dream last weekend when my wife and I drove from Portland to Burlington, VT to visit family. The trip took a little over five hours and it sure would have been nice to have had a four-lane, divided East-West Highway available to us. I suspect it would have taken us a lot less time.
Usually, when road officials get to talking about the East-West Highway, the talk will always get around to the question financing - of paying for it. Since the states involved don’t have bushel baskets full of unused money lying around, a way must be found to get the needed funds somewhere else. Some have suggested making it a toll highway like the Maine Turnpike. Others say the gasoline tax should be raised.
The talking goes on and on.
If the question of paying for it is ever more-or-less resolved, they start talking about where to begin the highway. Not surprisingly, people up north think it should begin in Bangor; people in the middle of the state think it should begin in the Augusta area and people in Portland, as usual, think it’s all about them and therefor the East-West Highway should begin in Portland.
On the other hand, I know people in Eastport who feel that if it’s an East-West Highway doesn’t it just make sense to start it way Down East in Eastport? People in Windham argue that Route 302 goes east to west
In Aroostook County they’re still waiting for the state to finish 95, which was supposed to go all the way Fort Kent, but ends abruptly in Houlton.
Maine people spend a lot of time talking about the town roads we travel on. Every year, across the state, citizens gather to decide what the town should spend on things like town roads. Usually, the sand and gravel boys get as much money as they need because no one likes to ride around bad town roads.
Maybe if a lot more people – like thousands and thousands - traveled from east to west across New England on a regular basis, there would be more interest in an East-West Highway. I’m sure that’s why Maine oldest and longest highway goes south-to-north, the way most of us want to go.
Maybe if more Mainers decided that an East-West Highway would greatly improve their quality of life and they began organizing and clamoring and demonstrating for such a highway, it may eventually, perhaps, be seriously considered by the sand and gravel boys.
But I’m still betting that the bridge from Harpswell to Halifax will be built first.