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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Maine city pins hopes on N.B. rail link

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The coastal city of Eastport, Me., sees its future economic prosperity linked to a 30-kilometre (18.6-mile) railway connection leading to the Canadian border at St. Stephen, N.B., the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported. The Maine city needs a railway to carry cargo to and from its deep-water port to other markets in Canada and the United States.

The Eastport Port Authority has applied for U.S. federal infrastructure money to build the railway that would run along the bed of an old line abandoned in the 1980s. The railway would link to the New Brunswick Southern railway in St. Stephen. From there, cargo could be moved to McAdam and then back into the U.S. rail system or it could continue on Canadian railways.

John Miller, an Eastport city councillor, said the idea of a railway heading to Canada has a lot of political support in the state.

"The governor of Maine is behind it. The congressional delegation is behind it. The Washington County commissioners, the Eastport city council [are behind it]," he said. "So when you have that group of people behind something like this, it is not far-fetched. It is a reality that is within reach."

Chris Gardner, executive director of the Eastport Port Authority, keeps a pair of rusty spikes from the former railway on display in his office.

"They sit on my desk to kind of be a reminder of what we're trying to accomplish and that is to bring the rail back," he said.

Although the new rail plan sounds ambitious, Gardner said the Eastport proposal would simply "add a small piece that will connect the port into that overall system."

Like many other communities, Eastport's economy is struggling during the downturn. Gardner said he hopes the railway would bring new business to the port, one of the few local industries.

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