Friday, March 05, 2010

Collins secures commitment to keep MMA Railway operating

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U.S. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured a commitment from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to work with her, state, and local officials in an effort to keep the important Maine, Montreal & Atlantic Railway operating in Northern Maine. Secretary LaHood pledged to send the Federal Railroad Administrator to Maine to work on a plan to keep the railway operating.

During a Senate Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee hearing, Senator Collins explained to Secretary LaHood how the current owner of MMA recently filed a notice of intent to abandon 233 miles of its track in Aroostook and northern Penobscot Counties, citing high operating costs and low shipping volume as a result of the current economic climate. MMA provides the only freight rail service in Aroostook County, serving primarily the pulp and paper, agricultural and potato processing industries.

Senator Collins expressed serious concerns regarding the proposal to abandon this critical rail link, which would have a devastating impact on the economy of Aroostook County and the State of Maine.

"I am so committed to saving freight rail service to Northern Maine. If the MMA rail line is abandoned, it will be devastating to Maine's economy, especially given the already steep 9.8 percent unemployment rate in Aroostook County," Senator Collins said to Secretary LaHood. "Twenty-two shippers directly rely on the rail line. The pulp and paper industry is the primary source of traffic for the MMA. Other major sources of traffic include petroleum, forest products and chemicals.

Senator Collins continued, "All parties involved agree that in order to make this line work, it will take an investment of capital whether from state, federal and private sources. Today, I am asking you to work with me to help identify a solution."

Secretary LaHood responded, "Senator Collins, thank you for your leadership on this issue. You'll have my full commitment. Freight rail is very important-- it's a big component of our transportation system in America. What I'd like to offer is for our Rail Administrator to go to Maine as quickly as possible and meet with all the stakeholders and we'll figure out some kind of funding opportunity to make sure that this rail line is not closed down. It's like an interstate- you can't close down part of an interstate that connects so many different parts of the state. I am committed to helping you. I'll have our Rail Administrator in Maine and we will work with you on a plan to get this funded."

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