CARIBOU — Wilbur Smith Associates of New Hampshire has been awarded a contract for nearly $200,000 to conduct a feasibility study for the construction of an extension of Interstate 95 to the St. John Valley.
Members of Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development (LEAD) said Monday the firm was chosen from three finalists. A total of nine proposals were submitted for the project.
The project was funded by a federal transportation bill several months ago.
LEAD’s transportation committee recommended the consulting firm because of its experience in other studies of socio-economic factors that have resulted in funding for highways. Their work has served as a blue print for other companies to follow, said Sam Collins, co-chairman of the transportation committee. Norman Johnson also serves as a co-chairman.
The LEAD study will focus on socio-economic factors of the region rather than vehicle counts.
“The premise is that if we have a better transportation system, we could compete better,” Collins said. “Businesses are more apt to locate in an area with a good transportation system.”
Several economic factors justify a new highway system, Collins said. They include a reduction in costs to truck forestry and agriculture products, increased tourism, a draw for new businesses to Loring Air Force Base when the military leaves and benefits from Canadian traffic, which may be diverted through the state.
The study has been in the planning stages since last fall when LEAD decided its major focus would be on all modes of transportation.
LEAD members also voted to allow its transportation committee to act as the Loring Readjustment Committee’s transportation committee to avoid duplication of effort and for coordination.
If the study results are positive, Congress would be asked for funds to build the highway, Collins said.