County Commissioners endorse new legislation for I-95 expansion

1 year ago

CARIBOU, Maine — The Aroostook County Commissioners have expressed public support for a proposed expansion of Interstate 95 to Fort Kent.

Currently, the 303-mile highway stretches from Kittery to Houlton. If passed, a new state bill would give the Maine Department of Transportation authority to study the feasibility of expanding I-95 to Fort Kent.

The bill, LD 607: Resolve, to Direct the Department of Transportation to Examine the Feasibility of Extending Interstate 95 to the St. John Valley, is being sponsored by Rep. Roger Albert, R-Madawaska, and co-sponsored by Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and Reps. Donald Ardell, R-Monticello, Mark Babin, R-Fort Fairfield, Timothy Guerrette, R-Caribou, and Austin Theriault, R-Fort Kent.

Maine House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, and Rep. Benjamin Collings, D-Portland, are also bill co-sponsors.

The Maine Legislature first established the Maine Turnpike Authority in 1941. The first two sections of the current highway were completed in 1955, beginning in Kittery and ending in Augusta. 

There have been repeated legislative campaigns to extend the I-95 to Fort Kent but so far those attempts have not been successful.

Jackson recently testified on behalf of the latest expansion bill.

“The state made a promise to connect the state from Kittery to Fort Kent. Decades later, that promise remains unfulfilled,” Jackson said. “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.”

On Wednesday, all three Aroostook County commissioners voted to provide a letter of support for LD 609.

In other business, the commissioners unanimously approved several fire and ambulance service agreements for unorganized townships in southern Aroostook.

Houlton will provide fire protection to Cary Township for a 2023 fee of $14,504, a 13.5 percent increase from their 2022 agreement with the County. Last year, Aroostook County government paid Houlton $12,773 for Cary fire protection.

Commissioners also approved a nine-month contract with Southern Aroostook EMS for ambulance coverage of eight townships: Cary, St. Croix, Webber, Dudley, Forkstown, TCR2, T3R8 and TAR2. Southern Aroostook will provide the service for a total fee of $26,767. The contract will begin in April.

Commissioners approved a tax anticipation note of $3,380,000 from Katahdin Trust Company, with an interest rate of 5.41 percent. The county takes out a note early each year to make up for a decreased cash flow as towns start sending their tax bills, noted Finance Director Dana Gendreau.

The next County Commissioners meeting will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, in the second-floor conference room of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office, 25 School St., Houlton.