Investment in Aroostook rail will open more markets to county businesses

Hanah Lopes

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Aroostook County’s railroad network will use nearly $13 million in federal money to make trains faster and safer, and more inviting for industries to ship by rail.

The Maine Department of Transportation will receive $12.9 million to spend on railroad infrastructure improvements in northern Maine through the 2022 Federal Appropriations Act. The money is among more than $200 million that will fund projects across the state.

Train shipments comprise just a fraction of the total freight coming in and going out of Maine — about 4 percent, according to the department. The largest amount by far, 86 percent, is shipped via truck. But by shoring up tracks and increasing the speed trains can travel on them, businesses and the DOT are convinced rail can become a bigger contender in freight movement.

Shipping by train got a boost this winter when Aroostook potato growers used railroad cars for the first time in 40 years to send potatoes to out-of-state processors. In the face of safety restrictions and trucking bottlenecks induced by COVID-19, trains have delivered needed food, energy and medical supplies around the nation, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Investment in Aroostook rail will open more markets to county businesses

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