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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Newly minted Maine law provides funds to purchase rail line


Earlier this week, Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci signed a job creation investment bill into law that includes funds to purchase a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd. line that’s proposed for abandonment.

The bill’s bond package includes $7 million to buy the line in Aroostook County. In addition, up to $7 million in cash that was originally slated for the state’s budget stabilization fund will be used to fund the balance of the line purchase.

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic is seeking Surface Transportation Board (STB) approval to abandon 233 miles of track in northern Maine. On May 10, the STB will hold a hearing in Presque Isle, Maine, to gather public feedback on the proposed abandonment and a projected truck traffic increase.

The job creation legislation also will provide $5 million to expand rail service in Lewiston-Auburn and $4 million to help restore rail service in western Maine along a Mountain Division Line, according to Baldacci. Other transportation funding includes $24.8 million for highway construction and repair projects, and $6.5 million for a new deep-water port in Portland.

Baldacci also signed an executive order calling for the creation of the Aroostook Rail Advisory Task Force, which will be charged with ensuring the abandonment and acquisition process is done openly, he said. The task force also will work with the Maine Department of Transportation and other interested parties to develop an operating plan after the line is purchased.

The 13-member force will include a chairman and vice chairman appointed by Baldacci, and seven governor-appointed members.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/14/2010