Moving rail cars full of merchandise through Auburn will become a little easier when a new rail project that broke ground recently is completed later this year. The Rangeley Branch rail line restoration project will alleviate congestion on the existing rail line servicing the Maine Intermodal Transportation Facility by providing an alternative rail line for the movement and delivery of freight to area businesses.
“After working on this project for over 10 years, the re-establishment of this rail line comes as welcome news,” said AVCOG executive director Bob Thompson. “The implementation of this project, opening up hundreds of acres for rail-related development, is a major step towards attracting businesses, creating jobs, and facilitating strong economic development opportunities for many years to come.”
As rail cars carrying freight are brought into the Port of Auburn, LLC and the Maine Intermodal Transportation Facility, they are unloaded during the day and removed at night. The main rail line that runs through the facilities is also used to assemble and disassemble trains at various times during the day as needed. Approaching trains must wait until this process is completed before they can proceed through to their destination.
The restoration project will provide an alternate route for waiting trains that will allow them to circumvent the main line while trains are being assembled and/or disassembled.
The Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments (AVCOG), the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council (LAEGC), the City of Auburn, representatives of the Lewiston and Auburn Railroad Company (LARC), and the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad Company (SLR) worked closely with members of the Lewiston/Auburn area delegation to secure $3 million in general obligation bond funds for the reconstruction of the former Rangeley Branch rail line running from Auburn to Poland.
The Lewiston/Auburn area delegation was instrumental in securing inclusion of this project in the 2010 bond package. Representatives Peggy Rotundo and Mike Beaulieu were key players in this process, with strong support from the entire Lewiston/Auburn area delegation.
The project consists of restoring approximately 6,600 linear feet of the former line between the Lewiston-Auburn Railroad at West Hardscrabble Road and the existing siding of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad near Lewiston Junction Road; the construction of approximately 400 linear feet of new track for a spur line leading from the midpoint of the mainline to an abutting commercial property owned and operated by MB Bark, LLC; and the addition of 1,500 linear feet of double-ended siding.
The Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments began advertising for bid proposals in November of 2012. Local developer, Gendron & Gendron of Lewiston, was awarded the lowest bid contract in February of this year.
“We are excited to officially break ground and begin construction on this project,” said John Gendron, Vice President of Gendron & Gendron. “This project will provide opportunities for direct rail access to future industrial and commercial facilities along the restored rail line, similar to the dual rail spur we constructed at our warehouse and distribution facility at 55 Logistics Drive in Auburn.”
The project is also expected to create new growth opportunities as much of the land surrounding the line is zoned for commercial and industrial development. Companies looking for vacant industrial land with rail access will have the ability to locate their facilities in this area and take advantage of rail-to-truck cross-loading opportunities, further enhancing the City of Auburn’s role as a major transportation hub in the State of Maine.
City of Auburn officials anticipate an increased interest in the area by owners of manufacturing operations and warehouse and distribution facilities due to the proximity of the Maine Intermodal Transportation Facility, Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, Maine Turnpike, and the recently permitted Phase II of the Auburn Industrial Park.
In addition to the logistical benefits, economic incentives are available for prospective businesses, including the Pine Tree Development Zone and proximity to Foreign-Trade Zone #263.
“While technology continues to advance at an incredible pace, we often forget how important the railroad system is for our economy,” said Clinton Deschene, manager for the City of Auburn. “We are a recognized transportation hub for the State of Maine and this project will provide an enhanced and reliable transportation infrastructure system, ultimately adding significant value and benefit to our area businesses by strengthening their capability to compete in a global environment.”