Today, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) announced it approved the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd.’s (MMA) request to abandon 233 miles of track in northern Maine, paving the way for the state to acquire the lines and hire a third-party operator.
MMA sought STB approval to abandon a line between Millinocket and Madawaska, as well as branch lines to Presque Isle, Houlton, Fort Fairfield and Limestone. Earlier this year, the state entered into a purchase and sales agreement with MMA to acquire the lines. The railroad will continue to operate the lines until Maine purchases the track.
The abandonment approval ends months of STB-led mediation and “extensive involvement” of federal, state, and local officials, and Maine business and labor representatives in attempting to preserve rail service in northern Maine, STB officials said in a prepared statement. The board also held a public hearing in Presque Isle, Maine, on July 7 to review line preservation proposals.
“Keeping trains rolling in northern Maine” is an “important achievement that will preserve jobs and businesses in the state, and set the stage for future economic development,” said STB Chairman Daniel Elliott III.
The Maine Department of Transportation currently is accepting proposals from short lines interested in operating the lines. Proposals are due Jan. 19.
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