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Aroostook County Has a New Railroad

Contact Denis Berube for more information.

April 4, 2011

The new operator of the rails in Aroostook County will be Eastern Maine Railway (EMR). 

The decision was reached unanimously by the selection committee last week following presentations by Rail America on Tuesday March 29th, and by EMR on Wednesday the 30th and subsequently approved by the Governor before the weekend.  The committee was composed of Nate Moulton, the state rail coordinator at MDOT, his boss Rob Elder who runs the MDOT Office of Freight Transportation, Travis Turner who runs the LP plant in Houlton, Gary Hunter of Railroad Industries Inc and myself.

Patriot rail made the decision of bowing out of the competition during the previous week, citing other important investment projects they are currently involved with.

Back on March 3rd, all finalists were provided with the same list of contacts consisting of mainly shippers, potential shippers and people of interest as they relate to railroad activities.  The purpose was to allow the candidates a chance to build a more accurate proposal, based on conversations with the businesses, regarding shipping requirements, timelines, car loads, expectations and anything else relevant. 

All candidates sent representatives to the county in order to spend both time with shippers and to get a chance to look at the tracks and get a general feel for the County.

When it came to the final presentations, both remaining competitors presented strong cases but EMR had more specific and detailed plans as to how they were going to do this. 

They communicated with most everyone involved, had a strong operating plan, excellent capital backing, an extensive array of operating and maintenance equipment on hand, strong safety and personnel development programs, realistic pro-forma expectations and plans for business development.  Beyond that, they conveyed a very strong commitment to providing reliable service to even the small rail shippers in the County.  In a number of cases they’ll also be able to provide something new to some of the shippers which is routing options over the other carriers which are CN, MM&A and Pan Am at their interchange points.

As things stand, the lease agreement is presently being worked by on by MDOT and may be finalized as early as the end of the week or early next.  No snags are anticipated and for all intents and purposes this will be a go.

Though there is no current official date for a handoff, EMR feels very confident that they would be ready to take over in plenty of time prior to the end of the current operating agreement between the state and MM&A in June.  All attempts will be made towards a seamless transition in service.

It’s been a long 19 months since all this started.  This was something the County couldn’t do without and was well worth the effort by all involved.  The ball is now in EMR’s hands and it will be interesting to see where they can take this in the near and long term.


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