AUGUSTA — Today, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, testified in favor of a bill to study the feasibility of extending I-95 to the St. John Valley, at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee. This is the latest effort to connect northern and central Aroostook County to Maine’s interstate system as originally intended by state.
LD 607, “Resolve, to Direct the Department of Transportation to Examine the Feasibility of Extending Interstate 95 to the St. John Valley” requires a report from the Department no later than Dec. 6.
“The state made a promise to connect the state from Kittery to Fort Kent, uniting the northern and southern parts of the state with the Maine highway system. Decades later, that promise remains unfulfilled today with I-95 stopping in Houlton, about 100 miles or two hours short of its planned destination,” said President Jackson. “After all these years, the people, businesses and communities in northern and central Aroostook County are the ones who continue to pay the price for this unfinished project.”
The Maine Legislature established the Maine Turnpike Authority in 1941 for the explicit purpose of building and maintaining a highway “from a point at or near Kittery in York County to a point at or near Fort Kent.” By 1955, the first two sections of this “superhighway” were completed, spanning Kittery to Augusta. The 1956 Federal Highway Act played a key role in preventing the final section of the “superhighway” from being built. According to a 2018 Press Herald story on the history of the Maine Turnpike noted, “politics intervened. Further toll road construction in the U.S. was suspended after President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the interstate highway system.”
Since the 1950s, there has been a campaign to connect the St. John Valley to the Maine Interstate System. In 1988, the Legislature established a commission to study the feasibility of constructing a four-lane highway from Interstate 95 to the St. John Valley.
In 2009, President Jackson introduced legislation directing the Department to request federal funding to complete this project following the availability of new federal dollars through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. A watered-down version of this proposal was signed into law.
LD 607 is supported by Twin Rivers Paper Company, Maine Community Action Partnership, Maine Better Transportation Association, Associated General Contractors of Maine, and town managers all across central Aroostook and the St. John Valley.
LD 607 will be the subject of additional work sessions in the Transportation Commitee.