AUGUSTA – Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, presented his bill to fund the long-overdue reconstruction of Route 161 from Fort Kent to Caribou, to the Legislature’s Transportation Committee Thursday. Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, the lead co-sponsor of the proposal, testified in favor of the bill at the public hearing.
“There is no doubt that Route 161 is a major rural road in northern Maine — one that so many residents rely on to get to and from work, send their kids to school and more. It’s time we took a serious look at putting money into reconstruction of the road that serves so many residents in central Aroostook and the St. John Valley,” said President Jackson. “This bill aims to fund the reconstruction of a section of the road from Fort Kent to Caribou, which has been in desperate need of repair for a long time. I urge the committee to join me in supporting this measure.”
LD 410 uses a one-time payment of $40 million from Maine’s General Fund to fund the project. The money would be appropriated during the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2021.
“This is a basic question of safety and accessibility,” said Martin. “When people get in their cars and trucks to go to work, bring their kids to school, transport logs or anything else, they expect safe, well-maintained roads. Aroostook County needs this project to move forward. They have been asking and asking, and it’s time for Maine to live up to its promises on rural infrastructure and bite the bullet on this essential project.”
After a community-wide outcry in 2018, the Maine Department of Transportation agreed to fund repairs to the portion of Route 161 running between Fort Kent and Allagash, promising to address the rest of the road soon after.
The committee will hold a work session on Martin’s bill in the coming weeks.