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Cianbro Group Vows Toll Route Through Maine Will Proceed

HALIFAX, N. S. - The global credit crisis has made finding investors with deep pockets increasingly difficult, however Cianbro says it still plans to build a private toll road through Maine, linking t...


PAVING THE WAY: Container traffic through the Port of Halifax is expected to surge, and the Cianbro group says its toll route through Maine will help the region keep up with demand.
PAVING THE WAY: Container traffic through the Port of Halifax is expected to surge, and the Cianbro group says its toll route through Maine will help the region keep up with demand.

HALIFAX, N. S. –The global credit crisis has made finding investors with deep pockets increasingly difficult, however Cianbro says it still plans to build a private toll road through Maine, linking the Maritimes to southern Quebec and shortening the trip by 200 km.

The $2 billion project is being billed as a 2,000-ft.-wide transportation, communication and utility corridor, Laurette Laverdiere, special assignments with The Cianbro Companies, said at the recent International Transportation Summit hosted by the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA). The plan is to build 350 km of road through Maine, which would reduce a truck trip by at least two hours.

However, there’s still a fundamental flaw to the proposal -vehicles would have to cross the border twice (once at Calais, Me. and again at Coburn Gore, Me.), which could eat up much of the time savings. Laverdiere said the company plans to launch demonstration projects using existing technology to streamline the border crossing process. However, later in the day, Paul Morris, executive director of the US Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Protection, warned that “There should not be an expectation that our security requirements are going to go away.”

He said unless the entire corridor is completely secure, “We will not waive our security requirements.”

He also noted the ports of entry that will be utilized by the new toll route are incapable of handling the increased volumes of traffic that would likely use the new highway, and it takes at least seven years to design and build a border crossing.

“In that sense, you’re already behind the curve,” he said, noting it would be 2015 before a new crossing could be constructed if approval was granted today.

The Cianbro group hopes to have its toll road up and running by 2014.

Despite the border issue, Cianbro officials are still forging ahead with the road, because they say it’ll be essential in opening up the Northeastern US/Atlantic Canada region as trade volumes through the Port of Halifax increase. Laverdiere said forecasts suggest container traffic in and out of North America is expected to increase 300% by 2020.

“The ports where these shipments are currently going are getting congested and already meeting capacity,” she pointed out. She said there will be a move towards larger ships -some capable of carrying up to 12,000 containers. Those ships will be limited to deep water ports such as Halifax, she insisted, since many ports used today would require dredging, an environmentally questionable process. She also noted the massive container ships will not be able to travel through the Panama Canal, and will instead travel the Suez Canal, eventually arriving at the shores of Northeastern North America.

In the south, Laverdiere said road congestion brings containers to a halt as soon as they are offloaded from ships, further positioning the Port of Halifax as the potential port of choice for global shippers.

“We don’t have the congestion on the roads that they have further south,” she said.

While NAFTA has succeeded in opening north-south trade routes within North America, Laverdiere said Canada must now look at the three billion potential consumers across the ocean, in markets such as China and India.

“We want their goods, and they also want ours,” she said.

Cianbro is touting its private toll road as just one of many infrastructure developments that will help create an effective transportation corridor in the Northeastern region.

“We need to make sure that each of us is working on building this transportation network,” said Laverdiere. And she also urged truckers to explore how they can work with other modes, such as short-sea shipping.

“Shippers need to have this whole portfolio of options, that make this destination the place to ship,” she said.


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