Gov. LePage has signed legislation authorizing spending $300,000 of Maine taxpayers’ money to study a private business proposal to construct an east-west highway.

My question is, how will taxpayers be assured that the study will be comprehensive and unbiased and not just provide the answer the proponents want to hear?

The cost of gasoline and diesel fuel continues upward, probably for good. Is it reasonable, then, to invest in massive new road-construction projects?

The map suggests the highway will be an expressway for Canadian truckers traveling between Quebec and New Brunswick. How will this benefit Maine residents?

Peter Vigue of Cianbro believes the road will enhance tourism. Canadian tourists generally are from Quebec traveling north to south to visit coastal Maine. How will this highway change that?

There is an existing east-west railroad across Maine connecting Quebec to New Brunswick on the same route as the proposed highway.

This railroad is underutilized and could handle a significant increase in trailer or container traffic, or a new passenger train, with a fraction of the pollution, and without turning over one new shovelful of dirt. Will this be considered in the study?

Just a year ago, Maine taxpayers stepped in to preserve north-south rail lines serving Aroostook County. Will the same be necessary if the new highway takes traffic off the east-west railroad?

In rough numbers, financing the $2 billion construction cost at 5 percent over 30 years looks like $11 million a month just to pay the debt, not including maintenance costs.

Who will pay if the project fails? The same folks who put up $300,000 for the study?

Wayne W. Duffett

Portland

Fees paid by other sewer users benefit private firm

Well, here we go again: public costs versus private profits. The “free market capitalists” love public investments that generate private gains!

The errors in Portland’s sewer billing fiasco are just the latest example. Did Shipyard benefit, and profit? Probably. Let’s see the tax returns. Did all the other sewer rate payers help pay for those profits? Yes. Where is the equitable balance of those inadvertent benefits and costs?

Just as the railroads, utilities, oil producers and airlines, among others, have benefited from various subsidies and write-offs, so has Shipyard Brewing by error — while producing some wonderful beers — avoided costs that were paid for by the other local sewer users.

Let’s hope that some of the extra funds not spent on sewer user fees were shared among the wage earners employed by the brewery — not all pocketed by those at the top.

William R. Laidley

South Portland

Yes, progressives can also call themselves capitalists

The recent Another View by Gerald Caruso shows what you can do with words (“Rep. West was using shorthand, just like President Obama,” April 17).

Mr. Caruso, struggling to deny any validity to progressivism, does not show that a person cannot be a capitalist and a progressive at the same time. If he isn’t, he is in danger of being a fascist, a category Mr. Caruso didn’t list, which would lead us to the enslavement of the masses.

Francis Madeira

Falmouth

Marriage vote raises issues of equality and authority

“How many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free?” — Bob Dylan

Once again, Mainers find themselves presented with a referendum on marriage equality this November. We have voted to ensure that our fellow Mainers can marry and then denied them this right.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declared that a ban on homosexual marriage is unconstitutional, though California’s Proposition 8 has not yet been officially repealed pending an appeal.

The U.S. Constitution promises equal rights to all of its citizens. Why is homosexual marriage an exception? This country was built on the principles of freedom of speech and religion. Banning gay marriage violates the very core of these values.

Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. Arguments against gay marriage are often based on biblical readings. Living by the dictates of a 2,000-year-old document means endorsing slavery and stoning our daughters for their transgressions. Our country must recognize the rights of all, regardless of the religious views of some.

Our country has made several mistakes regarding equal rights: denying citizenship to African Americans, allowing “Jim Crow” laws to exist and prohibiting the right of women to vote. When will we allow all of our citizens the right to marry?

We are juniors from Monmouth Academy. We want to raise our future children in a world where they have the same rights others enjoy, no matter their race, sexuality or gender.

Adriana Ortiz-Burnham and Kara Rowley

Monmouth

In the debate over whether the definition of marriage can be changed, I have not yet heard an answer to this question: Whence comes the authority to change the definition?

Certainly state legislatures have constitutional and other authority to develop and define contractual relationships (e.g., a civil union). These legislatures have the authority to determine the benefits and responsibilities that accrue to any specific contractual relationship (e.g., to declare that within a state all benefits and responsibilities pertaining to a “marriage” also shall pertain to a “civil union”).

The U.S. Congress may have the same authority. If so, it could choose to develop and define a civil union and direct that the benefits and responsibilities of a marriage also apply to a civil union. Alternatively, Congress could direct that federal benefits already granted to a marriage also could be granted to a civil union in any state that chose to develop and define such a relationship.

What is not clear to me is what authority individuals, voters, judges or legislatures have to change the definition of marriage and where that authority comes from. It would seem to me that if such authority exists, someone should be able to explain what the authority is and whence it comes.

I would be very grateful if any learned person would educate me about such authority — perhaps by a thoughtful column prepared for this newspaper.

Michael McCabe

Whiting