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Thursday, February 11, 2010

State takes steps to save Northern Maine rail tracks

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Maine transportation officials say they've taken new steps to resolve the potential abandonment of about 240 miles of railroad track in Aroostook and Penobscot Counties, after the track's owner indicated it plans to file a notice of abandonment in about the next two weeks, according to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

Hermon-based Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, which owns and operates the track, filed notice in August with the federal Surface Transportation Board that it was considering abandoning the track that runs from Millinocket to Madawaska and includes several eastward branches.

The Maine Department of Transportation says it's hired an attorney who specializes in STB proceedings and the attorney filed a request with the railroad for information related to the potential abandonment. DOT officials say they're also working with the consulting firm "Railroad Industries" to try to find a business solution that would allow the service to continue.

DOT officials say the recent actions are in response to MMA's filing Feb. 4, which indicates that the railroad intends to file a Notice of Abandonment on or about Feb. 24. Railway officials said in August that its business has declined by as much as 40 percent since the recession began. The DOT says 22 shippers and other businesses in the region use the rail service to move freight.