Friday, February 19, 2010

Maine lawmakers consider a bond issue to save rail line

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The Maine state legislature is now involved in the effort to save 240 miles of railroad tracks in Aroostook and Northern Penobscot Counties from being abandoned, according to local media. Representative Ken Theriault has introduced a bill that would put a $20 million bond issue to voters to buy the rail line owned by Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway.

The company plans to file an application with the federal government next week to abandon the tracks, which run from Millinocket to Madawaska and branch to Houlton and Caribou. Company officials said they can't afford to keep up the tracks anymore.

But 22 businesses rely on the line to carry lumber and other products, and Department of Transportation Commissioner David Cole said losing the tracks would be devastating to the Maine economy. So the Department of Transportation is working with stakeholders to come up with a business plan to preserve the line. Representative Theriault said his bill is a backup plan.

Once the railway applies to abandon the tracks, the federal government has 110 days to make a decision.

The DOT is hoping to come up with a financing plan that could include federal grants and private money, instead of, or in addition to a bond issue, to keep the line.

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