Transportation Infrastructure for Economic Development
Connecting Eastport to the International Rail Network
GROWashington-Aroostook supported a conceptual study for restoring rail or rail-to-truck service to the deep water port at Estes Head in Eastport.
The intent is to close the gap between the active rail lines of the Canadian-owned New Brunswick Southern Railway (NBSR) and Pan Am Railways, which currently serve Calais and the mill complex in Baileyville, and Maine’s deep-water seaport at Eastport.
Expanded rail service would be a major economic driver for the port facility, as it would make Eastport much more cost-effective as an import-export destination for heavy freight shippers worldwide.
The State of Maine still owns an inactive rail corridor between Calais and Ayers Junction and the Eastport Freight Restoration Study (HNTB, 2009) identified a preferred alternative location for a rail-to-truck transloading facility east of Ayers Junction along the abandoned rail line in Perry. Of course any final siting decision would be subject to landowner and regulatory approval.
Our alternatives analysis confirmed the site recommended by HNTB as the most appropriate location for the facility - again subject to landowner and regulatory approval. It also provided geographic information systems (GIS) mapping to provide the basis for further engineering design of route alternatives to connect the transloading facility to the port. One such alternative to State Route 190 (SR-190) could provide safer and more efficient rail-to-truck service to the port, possibly with sufficient right-of-way to permit a parallel future new rail corridor as demand for Eastport shipping increases. For more infomration on the Rail to Port Alternatives Analysis please contact Judy East (454-0465).
Any alternative route would require significant additional investment in geotechnical and environmental studies, right-of-way purchases, and new road and bridge construction. Two alternatives would completely remove heavy truck traffic from the current route that bisects the Passamaquoddy Indian Reservation at Pleasant Point. It would also permit the opening or removal of the Route 190 causeway between the mainland and Carlow Island that hinders natural flushing action within the tidal basin. Passamaquoddy Tribal leaders have long sought remedies for both of these ongoing problems.
Benefits of Rail Connectivity to the Deep Water in Eastport
The State of Maine estimated in 2009 that 5,206 jobs generating almost $188 million in wages could be created between 2009 and 2030 through the direct and indirect impacts of increased freight traffic at Eastport, assuming significant investments in railroad and road infrastructure and construction of the proposed rail-to-truck transloading facility at the Perry site. This number includes a prediction of 326 new permanent jobs by 2030, generating $12 million in wages and $19 million in gross state product. Coupled with an estimated $5.6 million in emissions reductions by 2030, this project was estimated to have a positive benefit-to-cost ratio of 2.39 to 3.45 (using discount assumptions of 7% and 3% respectively) despite its high price tag of $62.2 million dollars.
Unfortunately the project was not selected for Transportation Grants Funding Economic Recovery (TIGER) federal funding, so as of 2014, state and regional planners continue to look for funding sources that can help to move this initiative forward.
A public-private consortium, possibly in partnership with the Passamaquoddy Tribe which has direct access to federal funding for major transportation projects, may prove to be the best way to restore freight rail connectivity to Eastport.
Eastport Freight Rail Restoration Study, 2009 (Chapter 1; Chapter 2; Chapter 3a, Chapter 3b (Note 10Mb file), Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7): The purpose of this preliminary report was to estimate the cost of restoring rail freight service to the port of Eastport and to determine a feasible location, layout and cost for a rail to truck trans-load facility within reasonable distance to the port of Eastport. The results of this report were incorporated in an application for an ARRA TIGER Grant for Federal Stimulus funds (NOT FUNDED) that would have been used to solicit funding to restore vital rail freight access to the port of Eastport.