Gov. Paul LePage signed into law a bill setting aside $300,000 to study the feasibility of a highway connecting New Brunswick and Quebec through Maine, saying he sees the east-west highway as an opportunity to improve commerce between Maine and Canada, according to a report in the Morning Sentinel.

LePage said he’s been in communication with premiers of both Canadian provinces which straddle the state, and “and they’re very excited about this opportunity. It is good for commerce” between the United States and Canada, the governor said.

LePage said he’s pleased to see legislation that brings the state closer to “a shovel in the ground” on the project. Sponsor of the bill, Rep. Sen. Doug Thomas, said it would likely be two years before the project, if it gets the go-ahead, would start.

The concept of building an east-west highway has been discussed by state legislators for decades. Unlike past proposals, this one calls the project to be funded by private investors and the highway would be maintained with funds raised through tolls. Much of the traffic would be Canadian truckers moving their products from the Maritime Provinces to Quebec and Midwestern points, proponents say.

The latest concept calls for a 220-mi. highway extending from the Maine communities of Calais in the east to Coburn Gore at the border with Quebec. The project will cost an estimated $2 billion.

The feasibility study, Thomas said, will basically answer whether construction of the highway is worth the investment. Thomas said the highway means much more than hundreds of construction jobs and an easier route for Canadian truckers.

“This road will connect central Maine to millions of new customers in Canada,” Thomas said. “I hope that after decades of layoffs and business closings that this is the beginning of a more prosperous Maine.”