BANGOR, Maine — Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway said Thursday it has filed a “notice of intent” with the federal Surface Transportation Board to abandon 233 miles of its track in Aroostook and Penobscot counties. This notice is required by the board as a preliminary step in the abandonment process.
The possibility of an abandonment originally was announced in August. Affected lines include track serving Houlton, Presque Isle, Caribou and Fort Kent, the railroad said.
Separate Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway lines between Millinocket and the western Maine border with Canada, Brownville and Searsport, and Madawaska to Van Buren are not included in the application.
The railroad said it has suffered substantial operating losses on the lines in the last three years due to low shipping volume and high operating costs.
But the railroad said it continues to meet with the Maine Department of Transportation in an effort to find a solution that would preserve rail service in the area.
“We have been working closely with Maine DOT since the possibility of abandonment was first discussed,” President Robert C. Grindrod said. “We are seeking an alternative solution and consider abandonment the last resort in a process that offers several options short of abandonment.
“We will continue to seek solutions, but we must stop the cash drain that has already and continues to undermine the financial health of the entire company. However, I want to assure our shippers that service will continue during this process, and we are hopeful that an acceptable solution can be found.”
The railroad said it anticipates that the application will be filed in late February and that the proceedings at the Surface Transportation Board will take approximately three months to complete.
Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway began operations in 2003 and operates 754 route miles of track in Maine, New Brunswick, Quebec and Vermont.