The proposed east-west toll road through Maine has received strong support from industry leaders in southern New Brunswick, but transportation experts say twinning the Trans-Canada Highway should still be a priority.

Portions of the Trans-Canada in Quebec, along route 185 between Edmundston and Rivière-du-Loup, Que., are still only two lanes wide.

“If you say you have a national highway, then why isn’t it four lanes throughout? It’s saying to Atlantic Canada, you’re second rate,” said Mary Brooks, a professor of marketing and transportation at Dalhousie University.

The Quebec government, in partnership with the federal government, has twinned parts of the highway’s 94 kilometres on its side of the border.

But a spokesman for Transport Quebec declines to give a timeline for when the entire project would be complete.

The New Brunswick portion of highway 185 has been twinned to within a few kilometers of Quebec.

Peter Nelson, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, says the single-lane sections of the road make it impossible to use Long Combination Vehicles (LCVs) to ship goods between Atlantic Canada and markets west of the New Brunswick border.

“For the future of our industry, it’s really important to have twinned highways along the Trans-Canada,” said Nelson.

LCVs are truck tractors with two or three trailers, spanning about 130 feet in length. They are only allowed on multi-lane roads.

LCVs are not yet permitted in New Brunswick, but Nelson says he expects the provincial government to lift the ban later this summer or fall.

The bigger trucks would mean increased efficiency and savings on fuel for New Brunswick truckers, Nelson said.

Brooks and Nelson both said the private highway proposed by Maine’s Cianbro Corporation could also help make trucking more efficient.

The toll road would connect Calais to Coburn Gore, Maine, just south of Sherbrooke, Que.

“As truckers, we’re always supportive of new roads and better roads,” Nelson said.

But Nelson says benefits of the new route would depend on a number of factors, including toll prices and wait times at the border.

Since September 11, 2001, Canadian trucks have not been able to pass quickly through the United States due to security precautions.

“(The American government) has to resolve the issue of in-transit trucking,” he said.

“Otherwise, that highway won’t save any time.”

Given the option of the Trans-Canada and the toll road, Brooks says the route truckers chose would also depend on whether truckers are paid by the mile or on a flat rate.

Business leaders in the northwestern part of the province have expressed concern the east-west highway through Maine would be damaging to the local economy.

Brooks says there will always be winners and losers if transportation routes are altered through new and expanding roads.

“It’s a case of six of one, half a dozen of the other,” said Brooks.

“If citizens along part of the Trans-Canada lose, then the Atlantic Canada industries win.”

She added: “The promise (of the proposed toll road) is that Canadian business would be able to sell in the Midwest United States, the area directly south of Lake Ontario, and Ontario.”