Commissioner David Cole's Introductory Remarks

Mr. David Cole: It is my pleasure to be here today to give you a brief overview of a major initiative -- that has brought together New England states and Eastern Canadian provinces -- to address common needs and opportunities.

In 2005, the US Congress allocated funds for "a comprehensive study of transportation deficiencies affecting economic development of the Northeast Border Corridor" - which was interpreted as the broad region representing northern New England, northern New York State and the eastern provinces of Canada.

While Maine was the formal recipient of the congressional funds, it was always understood that this would be a joint effort of the states and provinces. And so, Maine turned over direction of the study to a joint Steering Committee initially comprised of the Secretaries, Commissioners and Ministers representing transportation and economic development agencies at the state and provincial levels.

At the initial meeting in Boston, the group decided to give the initial study a new name -- Northeast CanAm Connections: Integrating the Economy and Transportation. This very name emphasizes the point that the broad region's economic future, and the adequacy of transportation links between our states and provinces, are very much intertwined.

At that time, the group also agreed that while the initial study included Northern New England. Many of its issues are also related to transportation conditions in Southern New England. We anticipate future discussions with regard to where we go from here, with all your states and provinces.

During the study period, the Steering and Management Committees held meetings in Portland, in Montreal, in Saint John and again in Boston. At these meetings, it oversaw the progress of a consulting team that included four firms with Canadian offices and four firms with American offices. Wilbur Smith Associates led the consultant effort, and Economic Development Research Group worked on behalf of the Steering Committee to guide the technical direction of the study.

Today, we'll have a briefing on the study findings and interim recommendations. What needs to be stressed most, though, is that while this recent collaboration has been a nice start for a study, what we do for future collaboration will be far more important in determining our future economic growth.

At this point, I will ask Glen Weisbrod to briefly summarize the group's findings on looming threats, emerging opportunities and needed actions. Mr. Weisbrod has served as technical director for the Northeast CanAm Connections study. He is the President of Economic Development Research Group, based in Boston. He has worked around the US and Canada, assisting federal, state and provincial governments on issues of transportation and economic development. He is widely recognized for his work in this field, and he was appointed by the National Research Council to chair the TRB Committee on Transportation and Economic Development. He has also served on the Board of Directors of what is now the International Economic Development Council. Mr. Weisbrod...