CALAIS – City officials may want a new bridge across the St. Croix River, but they also are keeping an eye on how that bridge will affect economic development.
So when the state Department of Transportation showed city officials a drawing of a proposed access road into the Calais Industrial Park as part of the bridge construction plans, city officials scratched their heads.
The access road would bisect nearly 65 acres that could be developed commercially. The land is owned by DiCenzo Realty of Calais.
In light of the plans, members of the City Council met Monday night with Alec Porteous, a staff member for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. They asked him to tell state and federal officials that the access road should, in their view, benefit the area, not detract from it. Councilors Nancy Gillis, Marianne Moore and Denis Lovely did not attend the meeting.
“What seems to be emerging as a bit of a stumbling block is how the access road will go into the Industrial Park so it doesn’t cut properties in two,” City Manager Linda Pagels said.
Pagels said it made more sense for the access road to parallel a portion of U.S. Route 1 before it cut across the Industrial Park. She said she doesn’t think the city’s proposed route would harm economic development and it could hook into the existing Industrial Park Road. “It’s already built and already there,” Assistant City Manager Jim Porter noted.
Edmund DelMonaco, who is a member of the bridge committee and involved with DiCenzo Realty, agreed. He said it made more sense to leave the land for possible development and not touch the city’s future tax base.
Porteous said the bridge was a priority for Collins and that was why he was meeting with city officials. “We are going to keep working on it,” he said. Collins “recognizes that we need [the bridge] for economic development there and the potential for it, too.” He said he was scheduled to meet with DOT officials today and would bring up the city’s concerns.
The project involves several government agencies.
DOT, the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. General Services Administration, in cooperation with the New Brunswick Department of Transportation, the Canadian Border Services Agency/Public Works and Government Services Canada, are working together to construct a new international crossing between Calais and neighboring St. Stephen, New Brunswick.
The Canadian government already has pledged its half of the more than $100 million needed to construct the bridge, which would have one end near the Calais Industrial Park.
Two other bridges in downtown and in Calais’ Milltown neighborhood are already heavily used. The area is the eight- busiest commercial vehicle port of entry along the U.S.-Canadian border.
Supporters would like to see a new bridge built by 2006, but the timetable now calls for the bridge to be completed in 2007.