March 18, 2019

Panel shoots down Golden Road study

AUGUSTA – A proposal to look into a state purchase of the Golden Road died a quick death Tuesday before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee.

The bill, LD 625, a resolve sponsored by Rep. Raymond Pineau, D-Jay, would have created a commission to study the possible purchase of the private 100-mile-long road that links Millinocket with the Quebec border.

Pineau expressed concern that as North Woods lands change hands, the traditional public access to camps and hunting and fishing areas via the Golden Road could become threatened.

The Maine Forest Products Council, an advocacy group for logging and paper companies, opposed the move. Patrick Strauch, the group’s executive director, told the committee last week the state could not afford to buy the road and that it was not for sale.

He also said the road’s commercial users worried that maintenance, if in the hands of the state Department of Transportation, would decline given DOT’s recent funding shortfalls.

At the committee’s work session on the bill Tuesday, DOT’s Theresa Savoy told members that state weight limits for trucks would apply on the road if it were to be purchased by the state.

Rep. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, seemed to sum up the sentiment of his fellow committee members.

“Leave it alone,” Thomas said.

Rep. Boyd Marley, D-Portland, the co-chairman of the panel, suggested the concerns about loss of access were legitimate.

“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it,” Thomas replied.

Committee member Rep. William Browne, R-Vassalboro, suggested the state work on securing easements for the road, which gives access to land near the West Branch of the Penobscot River recently conserved. Such an approach might not cost the state any money, he said.

Other committee members suggested contacting the Department of Conservation to learn the status of efforts to secure easements for sportsmen and camp owners to use the Golden Road.

A motion to recommend the bill ought not to pass carried unanimously, virtually ensuring its death on the floor of the Legislature.

Another bill scheduled for the Tuesday work session, LD 561, a resolve by Sen. Kevin Raye, R-Perry, to direct DOT to build restrooms on Route 9 between Calais and Brewer, was tabled.

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