MONCTON – A proposed east-west transportation corridor through Maine will help move more than transport trucks, says the head of the private company backing the proposal.

Peter Vigue, chairman and chief executive of Cianbro Corporation, the Maine construction firm exploring the feasibly of the US$1-billion transportation corridor, said the concept would include electrical and natural gas transmission lines as well as a communications network.

“It’s not just about a road. It’s about a road and a utility corridor,” he said.

The corridor would benefit the entire region on both sides and the Canada-U.S. border, Vigue said.

“This is a regional initiative that improves connectivity with utilities and transportation,” he said.

Vigue will be speaking today about the private sector-led East-West Toll Corridor Project during a joint Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce, Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association and Transportation Club of Moncton Inc. luncheon in Dieppe.

The 260-kilometre Maine transportation and utility corridor would stretch from Calais, to Coburn Gore, Me., south of Sherbrooke, Que.

The corridor would link the Atlantic Canada Gateway project to the Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway.

The project, particularly the transmission of electricity and natural gas, would be a welcome fit to the provincial government’s energy hub strategy, which aims to increase energy exports from the province to the lucrative and energy-hungry New England market.

Vigue said the highway aspect of the project continues to gain in attractiveness, even as concerns mount over rising fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Where we can maximize the load capacity of the tractors and then reduce the number of tractors and at the sametime shorten the distance, this reduces the carbon footprint for the northeast sector in a big way and also makes it more cost effective and efficient,” said Vigue.

Vigue said the first feasibility study on the project would be completed next month.

“We’ll then begin some preliminary design and engineering and a financial feasibility study, as well,” he said.

Construction on the highway could begin as soon as 2012 and be completed by 2014.

The entire project would be financed by the private sector.

The American businessman said his company decided to explore the project because it recognized the need for infrastructure to help the Maine economy grow at a time when the state government faces financial challenges.

“We’ve chosen a path that says we’re not going to complain about the problem, we’re going to do something about problem,” he said.

Cianbro, which has operations in 15 states and has 2,000 employees, was founded in Maine 59 years ago, said Vigue.

Ten years ago, as his firm expanded in the United States, it became apparent that other regions in North America weren’t suffering from the same economic malaise as Maine – and, in some cases, were in fact thriving.

Vigue said he also came to realize that his Canadian neighbours in the Maritimes weren’t competitors – they were natural allies.

“Unless we improve the economy in this entire region, unless we start to work together, things will not go well for us in the long term.”