In yesterday’s Portland Press Herald, I have an update on the increasingly fraught struggle between Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s Department of Transportation and the town of Wiscasset, site of Maine’s most infamous summer traffic bottleneck.
To recap, the town originally supported the plan, but turned against it and ultimately filed suit against the DOT, alleging that it is violating town ordinances and state law and that it changed the project after receiving approval. Among other things, the DOT suddenly decided not to use federal funds, which were to pay for 80 percent of the project’s $5 million price tag, thereby avoiding historic preservation requirements. LePage then personally started throwing fuel on the fire with blustery notes to constituents telling them he’s had enough of Wiscasset’s obstruction, then allegedly vetoing a draft compromise worked out between the department and town.
Now the department has allegedly told the town they might go ahead with their project — which includes removing all on-street parking on Main Street in the historic village — without building replacement parking (as the plan has called for all along) if they are made to follow local ordinances. It’s the nuclear option, so to speak, and one local businesspeople say would kill the historic downtown. Details within.