SPP Atlantica Multimodal Trade Corridors - New England & I-95

Posted on Friday, April 11 at 10:55 by Janet M Eaton
Hope glimmers for regional east-west highway

By Elizabeth Penney

Friday, February 15, 2008

After 20 years of sporadic study regarding a potential east-west
regional highway linking northern Maine with Montreal, a
comprehensive review of northern New England´s transportation routes
is under way.

The Northeast CanAm Connections project is looking at both adequacy
and opportunity in highway, rail, air and marine infrastructure, said
Fred Michaud of the Maine Department of Transportation, sponsor of
the project.

"We need to fill the `hollow middle´ between Maritime Canada and the
Great Lakes if we want to compete in the global economy, which is
huge," said Michaud. The engineering and planning firm of Wilbur
Smith Associates, which has an office in Portland, Maine, and the
Boston-based Economic Development Research Group began the study in
2006, with completion projected for mid-2008.

With regional transportation needs and opportunities analyzed, the
team is now identifying strategic directions. As the work plan
states, "The objective will be to establish the feasibility of a new
multi-modal east-west Trade Corridor with seamless intermodal and
international connections."

The region under study covers a huge stretch essentially linking Nova Scotia to Montreal, with Maine, northern New Hampshire, northern
Vermont and northern New York state in-between.
Intermodal freight transport - the transportation of sealed,
standardized freight containers via sea, rail and truck - is seen as
the future of the shipping industry. Indeed, container traffic is
forecast to double by 2020. (Port capacity is now measured in
container movements, with one container defined as a 20-foot
equivalent unit, or TEU. Truck and rail connections are necessary to
move the containers from dock to destination.)

The initial phase of the study revealed gaps in roads, rail and air
in the region. "We have five interstate highways in the region, but
they go north-south," Michaud said. "We need to become a crossroads
for east-west, north-south trade flows. Enhanced transportation is
vital for intermodal shipment."

Private efforts
In the Northeast, freight arriving at ports is concentrated in New
York and points south, with some activity in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Truck routes skirt the region north through Canada or east from New
York to Chicago and Ontario.

Michaud would like to see development of the deep water ports in
Searsport, Maine, and Halifax. "Ports on the West Coast are backed
up. New York is congested. With increased ship traffic through the
Suez Canal, we have an opportunity to attract trade."

Some 93 percent of New England freight is moved by truck, although
producers pay 1.75 times what competitors pay in other regions. The
study attributes some of the higher costs to fewer backhaul
opportunities, lack of competition and longer average hauling

Poor east-west road connections continue to make freight movement
difficult, with truckers traveling a patchwork of two-lane rural
roads across the region, say proponents of the intermodal project.

Peter Vigue, president of Maine-based Cianbro, one of the East
Coast´s largest construction firms, is attempting to remedy the
problem by building a private toll highway for trucks through Maine.
The proposed road would span 220 miles from Calais on the coast to
Coburn Gore on the Canadian border. Funded by private investment, the road would be built and maintained without public funds.

Joe McKeever, vice president of Louis Berger´s office in Manchester,
N.H., said the engineering firm is partnering with Cianbro to design
and build the road.

"This idea is based on a European model of private investment in
major infrastructure projects," McKeever said. "Virginia, Texas and
Florida all have private highways. So far, we´ve had a very favorable
response. Private funding means cost-avoidance to the state and

McKeever reports that preliminary engineering has been done and a
financial feasibility study is under way, projected for completion in
April 2008. Initial calculations report $1 billion as a starting cost estimate.

The road will be built to Canadian standards in order to accommodate
Canadian trucks, which operate at higher weights than U.S. trucks.
Long double trailers, not allowed on Maine highways, also will be

"We´ve also had a lot of interest from the tourist, so passenger
vehicles will be allowed on the road," McKeever said. The road will
be built on private land, using existing logging roads whenever
possible. It will cross two rivers and state and public roads, where
permission will be required.

Louis Berger and Cianbro hope to start construction in 2011, with
completion in 2014.

Rail, another vital intermodal link, received mixed reviews in the
study, with reports of lower per-ton mile shipping costs but a
fragmented, insufficient system. Several railroads run short lines.
For example, New England Central runs through Vermont into northern
Massachusetts. Pam Am Railways (formerly Guilford Transportation) has
lines across Massachusetts and up into New Hampshire and Maine. The
St. Lawrence and Atlantic has a line from Portland, through Berlin,
N.H., and up into Canada.

"Our railroads need to be modernized," Michaud said. "We need high-
speed trains. If we can get freight to Chicago as fast as it can
travel from New York, and at comparable cost, we can be competitive."

Michaud said he thinks updated rail systems would help local
producers as well. "We can ship Maine potatoes out west, into new

The study cites several regional advantages, including proximity to
major economic centers, a skilled workforce and numerous border
crossings to facilitate international trade. But challenges are
evident - the region has high energy costs and is suffering from
population and economic decline in most of its rural areas. Pulp,
paper and wood products together account for 13 percent of the
commodities distributed in the U.S. portion of the study area. The
recent closure of pulp and paper mills in Maine and New Hampshire
have had a great impact on both trucking and rail. Funding
infrastructure improvements is difficult without identified revenue
streams, but attracting new sources of revenue will be difficult
without adequate infrastructure.

Michaud, however, has high hopes for regional and cross-border

"The New England governors and the premiers of the Canadian provinces are meeting later this year to discuss transportation," he said.
"Maybe we can thread this system together cohesively."

See also

[power point version]
I-95 Corridor Coalition  Beyond Boundaries
Presented to: National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
 Presented by: George Schoener, Executive Director
I-95 Corridor Coalition - October 17, 2007
# 16 State Region - Maine to Florida
    * Associates: Quebec and New Brunswick
# 1,927 miles of I-95
# Multi-modal/long-distance travel focus
    * Freight
    * Passenger
# An alliance of transportation agencies, toll authorities and
related organizations


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