CALAIS, ME. – Washington and Charlotte counties don’t have to be seen as the end of the road, said Peter Vigue, chairman and CEO of The Cianbro Company to about 40 people gathered in Calais early Friday morning. Vigue is proposing a $1-billion toll highway that would connect New Brunswick and Quebec through Maine. On Friday, he pitched more than a highway to people in Washington County. He pitched a new way of life.
“We are divided by a border, which is nothing more than a line created by man,” said Vigue. “We are joined by nature and we have a lot in common with our neighbours. We have to collaborate and work together… we are isolated only by the boundary we created.”
Vigue said more disturbing than other states considering Maine the end of the road, is the fact that its own people have the same perception. Vigue said he can see the lifestyle in Maine shrinking out of their inability to help themselves. He said it is time to stop thinking that way and do something about it. The highway, which has no weight limit, would allow trucks to make a faster journey and would be used not only as a transportation channel but also a channel for utilities and communications.
With container ships the transportation way of the future, and a possible container port in Millford, N.S., Vigue said Maine would be positioned at the centre of this transportation channel. Since the state government does not have the money to build the East/ West highway, Vigue said it must be built privately in order to allow the Atlantic region to prepare for its future and participate in the world economy.
Vigue said when people in Maine talk about Canadians they refer to them as the enemy or competitors but the truth is over the last 10 years, eight of the 10 top investors in Maine have been Canadian companies.
“There are a lot of folks out there that don’t find it attractive to invest in our state,” said Vigue. “Our neighbours find it very attractive to invest here. They are our most important trading partner.”
Vigue said there are 4,000 Canadian trucks traveling to Maine each day, spending two to four hours extra than they would have to if the new highway was built. By saving time, Vigue said the new highway would also cut the environmental footprint and would not harm the environment because it is mapped on existing roads instead of traveling through wooded areas. The highway, he said, would give all local companies a faster and cheaper way to ship their products across the U.S.
Vigue said the U.S. must stop thinking of Canada as a competitor and instead work together to enhance the economies on both sides of the border. Vigue said it is clear that New Brunswick’s economic strategy is to be the energy provider for New England. Maine, he said, is without a future vision and strategy and must develop one if it wants to strengthen its future.
Mike Rouse, president of Enterprise Charlotte, was in Calais on Friday to hear the pitch. He said New Brunswick and Charlotte County can’t help but benefit from this American project.
“Companies will benefit from significantly reduced costs for exporting and it will make our companies more competitive,” said Rouse. “Whether it is Cooke Aquaculture, Ganong Bros., or Connors Bros., they will become more competitive. For tourism and other services it opens up links from Montreal to Charlotte County.”
Rouse said Charlotte County often feels like Washington County, in that it is the end of the road, but if this highway is built, the county will no longer be at the end, it will be in the middle. With New Brunswick planning to twin Highway 1 from St. Stephen to Saint John, Rouse said the west/east highway would add to Canada’s infrastructure and trade corridor.
Vigue said the proposed highway would connect to the third international border crossing that is being built in Calais. The company’s timeline shows the highway ready for traffic in 2014 pending environmental and regulatory approval.