Maine Gov. Paul LePage Shuts Down Gateway 1 Project
In news from Maine this week, recently inaugurated Republican Gov. Paul LePage has issued a directive to shut down the regional development plan known as Gateway 1. According to a letter sent out by David Bernhardt, commissioner of Maine’s DOT, the LePage administration has ordered all work on the extensively vetted and in-progress plan to cease immediately.
Gateway 1 is a regional planning effort consisting of a number of towns in Mid-Coast Maine that share Route 1, a heavily trafficked and multi-use corridor, as their main arterial. As development along Route 1 increased over the years, changing the function of the road and the character of the surrounding towns, a series of conflicting uses emerged. Gateway 1 was conceived to help mitigate such conflicts by coordinating usages and setting the framework for future economic development by utilizing context sensitive solutions appropriate to each particular part of the thoroughfare.
The plan has been in design since 2005, and was nearing various degrees of implementation when, quite suddenly, LePage pulled the plug on the entire program. Bernhardt’s letters were sent out without any warning to members of Gateway’s steering committee, making the move seem all the more political. LePage was elected with strong Tea Party-member support, and recent months have seen an upswing of conservative activists equating Gateway 1 to sustainability measures such as the United Nations’ Agenda 21 and as an attempt to exert control over personal property rights.
Regardless of motivation, there is a certain irony in LePage dictating that Gateway 1 “does not correspond with the immediate priorities of this administration." For starters, the Gateway 1 initiative has largely been a locally organized collaboration between Route 1-adjacent towns working together to utilize the best design. Even with the previous support of the state’s DOT, the local control of the project would seem to negate the political considerations to oppose the plan.
Further, one of Gateway 1's primary goals was to establish a seamless series of fixes that would not only ensure the quality of life around Mid-Coast Maine’s most vital roadway, but also improve the economic development along the corridor. If LePage’s rationale was to curb Gateway 1 as a nod to present-day austerity, he is setting the region up for economic stagnation well into the future. Such development, or lack thereof, will only serve to punish the state’s coffers even more so than the present.
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