Wednesday, July 21, 2010

State makes offer for Maine rail line

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The state has offered $18 million to purchase the 233 miles of rail line that Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway is seeking to abandon in Aroostook and Penobscot counties, the Maine Public broadcasting Network reports.

Maine Department of Transportation Rail Program Director Nathan Moulton says the offer is conditional on federal approval of MMA's request to abandon the tracks. The federal Surface Transportation Board is still considering whether to allow MMA to abandon the railway, and Moulton says the offer will protect the right of the state to purchase the line if the STB grants that request.

MMA says it wants to abandon the line because it's no longer profitable, but state officials say shutting down the railroad could cost the region as many as 1,700 jobs. In June, Maine voters approved a $7-million bond to help purchase the line.

Moulton acknowledges that the state's offer is well below the $27 million value the rail owners have placed on the land and tracks, but he says the $18-million figure was based on the value of the net liquidation of the railroad, which includes the real estate, the rights-of-way, as well as the steel in the rails and other equipment.

Moulton says the state's offer will be considered if the STB approves MMA's request to abandon the line. He says he expects that decision to be made within a couple of weeks.

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