PORTLAND, Maine — Baileyville and Skowhegan paper mills will receive state grants for railroad improvements intended to make shipping and receiving from their facilities more efficient.

The state’s Industrial Rail Access Program awarded about $843,000 to six projects in its latest round, including the mill awards, each with a matching amount from the recipient.

Woodland Rail LLC, serving Woodland Pulp and the new St. Croix Tissue, will get about half of that latest grant amount to make upgrades to 2.5 miles of track owned by the mill. The Maine Department of Transportation said in a grant announcement that the project promises to make the mill more competitive on cost and will support its 316 jobs.

Pan Am Railways received the second largest grant of $201,060 for intermodal track improvements in Waterville, where Poland Spring earlier this year started transferring shipments from truck to rail. The company estimated it would ship 4,000 containers of Poland Spring water by rail instead of truck this year.

The grant award comes in anticipation of truck to rail traffic increasing this year, and the DOT said “this project will provide the reliability and resiliency in track structure to carry out regular intermodal operations in the intermodal yard.”

Sappi’s Somerset mill in Skowhegan will get the third-largest award, of $113,000, to rehabilitate 1,000 feet of track and a paved crossing in its mill yard, which the DOT said will allow the mill “to continue to use and likely increase its use of rail.” The mill employs about 760 people.

The latest round of grants will also deliver $49,867 to the city of Saco to rehabilitate 1.7 miles of track serving its industrial park and $43,705 to Casco Bay Transportation LLC, a tenant at that industrial park, for improvements to allow unloading of rail cars.

The DOT also granted $7,382 to MPG Crop Services in Presque Isle to rehabilitate track siding along its fertilizer warehouse, allowing the company to resume taking rail deliveries, according to the department.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.