Rail Related Development in Northern New England

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4266
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Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by 4266 » Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:01 am

Since this is a common source of debate in the New England Railfan forum, I thought we should have a forum dedicated solely to issues of rail-related development in northern New England.

Topics for discussion can include- Rail-oriented industry and reversing the decline of privately operated freight lines in northern New England. The states role in purchasing and maintaining RR ROWs as a public thoroughfare. Passenger rail related economic development. Intermodal plans for car-free tourism. Potential markets for both freight and passenger rail. etc...

If discussion in a specific thread (such as in the MTN DIV Thread) moves towards the development debate and further from the initial topic then this forum can serve as the appropriate destination.

Cowford
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Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by Cowford » Mon Oct 25, 2010 1:33 pm

Thanks for starting this 4266. Further on the pellet issue:

First, if you look back at my earlier post, I stated that the $150/ton number was wholesale, not retail.

How I calculated feedstock cost: From what I've learned, it can vary from essentially $0 (on-site lumber mill, waste sawdust/chips) to $40+/ton to harvest, chip, transport, and store. One typical report I found indicated the supply of diseased (read otherwise commercially worthless) trees for pellet use cost about $32/ton. In that example, the chips had to be transported only 3 miles. With the exception of Limington Lumber in Baldwin, I don't know of any sources of waste material in the area, so I'm assuming the use of purpose-cut logs is planned. Companies aren't going to give away trees, so possibly feedstock would have to be purchased at the pulp wood ballpark value of $10/ton (to which one needs to add the costs of chipping, delivery, etc.)... you're probably looking at $35-45/ton. And you need ~1.35 tons of raw wood to produce 1 ton of pellets (due to bark removal and moisture content). This could push the feedstock cost to $50-60/ton.

Furthermore, while I'm no forestry expert I'd estimate that two purpose-built 100,000 ton pellet mills would suck up as much as 4-5,000 acres (over six sq miles) of wood per year. That would deplete local wood availability rather quickly, no?

I'd guess that sources in the Southeast and Western Canada can penetrate such far-flung markets like New England because the pellets are co-produced at large-scale sawmills. The availability of a free feedstock (and the fact that the business is incremental to lumber operations) provides a huge competitive advantage. A purpose-built pellet facility would have a vastly different economic playing field. (A similar market is the gypsum wallboard market - gypsum is a by-product of power plant emissions scrubbing. As more and more scrubbers are built, more and more wallboard plants are popping up adjacent to the plants. This has had a significant [negative] impact on purpose-built wallboard plants.)

4266
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Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by 4266 » Tue Oct 26, 2010 10:08 am

Cowford wrote:I'd estimate that, unless they have a secret source of wood chips, a 100,000ton/yr pellet mill in western Maine would have a wood supply cost of $50-60/ton of finished pellet (which includes harvesting, transport, and chipping). And production cost (incl. capital cost) would be $45-50/ton (bagged). Cost, FOB Fryeburg (or wherever) would be $100-110/ton. Midwest wholesale pricing for pellets appears to be about $150/ton. That means they would have about $50/ton to pay transport costs and brokerage fees... and hopefully make a bit of profit. I don't see this as plausible even if they were on a (presently) active rail line. I'd guesstimate that transport/logistics costs to Europe would be $60-100/ton (bulk or bulk blown in lined ISO containers). Given that the European market price is also about $150/ton, it's understandable that the industry has not been able to make the numbers work on that market either.
Cowford

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Thanks for starting this 4266. Further on the pellet issue:

First, if you look back at my earlier post, I stated that the $150/ton number was wholesale, not retail.

How I calculated feedstock cost: From what I've learned, it can vary from essentially $0 (on-site lumber mill, waste sawdust/chips) to $40+/ton to harvest, chip, transport, and store. One typical report I found indicated the supply of diseased (read otherwise commercially worthless) trees for pellet use cost about $32/ton. In that example, the chips had to be transported only 3 miles. With the exception of Limington Lumber in Baldwin, I don't know of any sources of waste material in the area, so I'm assuming the use of purpose-cut logs is planned. Companies aren't going to give away trees, so possibly feedstock would have to be purchased at the pulp wood ballpark value of $10/ton (to which one needs to add the costs of chipping, delivery, etc.)... you're probably looking at $35-45/ton. And you need ~1.35 tons of raw wood to produce 1 ton of pellets (due to bark removal and moisture content). This could push the feedstock cost to $50-60/ton.

Furthermore, while I'm no forestry expert I'd estimate that two purpose-built 100,000 ton pellet mills would suck up as much as 4-5,000 acres (over six sq miles) of wood per year. That would deplete local wood availability rather quickly, no?

I'd guess that sources in the Southeast and Western Canada can penetrate such far-flung markets like New England because the pellets are co-produced at large-scale sawmills. The availability of a free feedstock (and the fact that the business is incremental to lumber operations) provides a huge competitive advantage. A purpose-built pellet facility would have a vastly different economic playing field. (A similar market is the gypsum wallboard market - gypsum is a by-product of power plant emissions scrubbing. As more and more scrubbers are built, more and more wallboard plants are popping up adjacent to the plants. This has had a significant [negative] impact on purpose-built wallboard plants.)
According to the Maine "Wood to Energy Task Force' report http://www.maine.gov/doc/initiatives/wo ... Report.pdf your calculations are correct. In fact, they estimate that wood supply costs would be about $40 a ton with a total cost of about $115 and wholesale value in the $165 range. This is all laid out bare as evidence of the profitability of the supply costs. Why? Because the transportation costs are added to the RETAIL value which is about $250/$265 a ton. The wholesale number refers only to the product immediately after production. Basic economics always states that transportation costs and otherwise are added to the RETAIL value which as high as it is, will always be competitive with oil costs.
As for the supply issue. This is a question that the forest products industry has been wrestling with for the past few years. The task force report concludes that an increase in biomass harvesting could be adequately supplied through modern sustainable forestry methods as long as the supply chain efficiently involves all stakeholders from loggers to truckers to (yes) rail, to mill. In fact, rail figures prominently on the supply side of their plan. The report recommends that
The transportation infrastructure in Maine needs to be optimized for the needs of the forest products industry.
Specifically,
Rail integration issues that lower the efficiency of the movement of wood products need to be addressed.
By which they mean-
c. The effectiveness of current transportation infrastructure in the State can be improved. The integration of rail lines to the needs of the forest products industry as well as trucking regulations that impact the ability to cost effectively transport wood are a source of inefficiency. The protection of the transportation infrastructure and safety should not be compromised; but if changes can be made that do not impact those concerns they should be implemented quickly.
i. Decisions by the railroads to serve the industry are based on quantity, sources and destinations of the raw materials and the finished products. There are currently bottlenecks in the railroad system causing producers and suppliers in the wood products industry to use the trucks, a method that consumes more fossil fuel at a time when our dependence on foreign oil requires a dramatic change in the consumption patterns in the State, region and nation. Shipping wood products by rail can reduce Maine’s dependence on imported oil.
Other recommendations include-
ii) Maine’s rail system is a significant recipient of public funds invested in the system by the State. The State should work to make the rail systems better integrated to facilitate the movement of bulk materials both inter and intrastate.
iii) The State should engage the railroad companies in order to understand the reasons for discontinuities in the system.
iv) The State should investigate a strategy for providing incentives for new facilities in the wood products sector to be located for easy access to the rail system.
21
v)
The proposed general transportation strategies in the Governor’s Pre-Emergency Task Force report are reiterated below to underscore the Wood-to-Energy Task Force’s support of those action items.
(a) Provide relief to businesses that wish to connect to the railway system.
(b) Provide a revolving loan fund to promote business connections to local rail systems.
(c) Provide a truck efficiency tax incentives program to enhance energy efficiency for motor carriers.
(d) ExpandtheDOTIndustrialRailAccessProgram. (e) Promoteintermodal–freight/railinterconnections. (f) Expand railroads into industrial parks. (g) Expandtheuseofanti-idlingtechnologiesandprograms. (h) Promote Maine inter-modal ports such as Searsport, Bangor and Portland. (i) Promote a robust rail and intermodal transportation system in the State. (j) Expand container traffic at IMT-Portland.
BTW, I finally found some answers to the speculation as to the identities of the Pellet Company in Baldwin. Look no further than this link-http://www.fewoodenergy.com/. Some highlights from the website-
Efficient Logistics: F.E. Wood & Sons is working with the State of Maine, as well as the Department of Transportation and various Rail organizations to shore up support and funding for the revitalization of the Mountain Division Rail. This rail line runs right through our current site, and would provide access to our product from any market across the United States. Many utilities throughout the United States require this connection, so it is an important element of our project that we are concentrating on.
Bagged Pellet Fuel

F.E. Wood & Sons will provide bagged pellet fuel for local markets. This fuel will be shippable via Rail or Truck, and can be arranged through our distribution channels. We are currently developing marketing materials for our branding, and will be able to update potential customers/distributors as we approach startup. This pellet fuel is anticipated to be Premium Quality (according to PFI standards) and available by the ton.

Bulk Pellet Fuel

The majority of our Pellet Fuel will be produced in bulk form. Our facility currently plans to have storage on site, which will be held in reserve to maintain long-term contracts. Distributors who choose to partner with F.E. Wood will have the option to take delivery as needed, or to purchase in larger volumes and receive volume discounting. Our facility will be equipped to load via truck (bulk delivery trailers loaded via our silo auger systems, or loaded directly from the batch cooling process). We are also planning to transport via Rail (at our intended siding, to be located directly adjacent to the loading facility), which can be arranged for distributors as well. This pellet fuel is anticipated to be Premium Quality (according to PFI standards) and available in various volumes.

gokeefe
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Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by gokeefe » Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:11 am

4266,

Many thanks for 'getting it done right' by establishing this thread.

My first impression upon reading the information from F.E. Wood & Sons is, "Wow, the Mountain Division service restoration has legs now." I would emphasize this is a political assessment not an economic one.

If there really are businesses other than the somewhat seasonal sand and gravel shippers that are looking to originate traffic on the division I think we can see now why the State as a whole is pushing so hard for the rehabilitation and reconstruction. This is especially true because the jobs involve the resource based economy which creates primary employment. These jobs often have good wages and benefits for high school graduates who do not have trade skills.

I know for those of us here who discuss these topics and issues at length the shipping volumes are really questionable. However, for MDOT purposes this seems to meet their threshold for justification which is admittedly very low. This is not necessarily a criticism of MDOT just a statement of what appears to be facts especially in light of the continued work on the Lewiston Lower Road which at present is being done for the sake of a sole active shipper.

Hopefully several years from now both the Lewiston Lower Road and the Mountain Division will see growth from the State's investments. Unfortunately to this point in time this simply hasn't happenned on the Lewiston Lower Road (certainly not for lack of trying on MDOTs part).

I am once again amazed that we are even having a serious discussion about reactivating the Mountain Division. I think it's safe to say at this point there are others who are on the inside of this process that may see it only as a matter of time.
gokeefe

rjones2
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Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by rjones2 » Tue Oct 26, 2010 1:15 pm

My interest in rail development in Northern New England would be focused more in Northern New Hampshire (I still have alot of family up there) as well as the St. Johnsbury, VT area.

In terms of overall economic development/depression, the area has lost paper mills in the past few years, which in turn have had a ripple effect on the local economy.I'm hoping that talks of potential Bio-fuel plants come to life, but I also wonder about how they will impact and increase rail traffic. The Whitefield, NH area could have seen rail completely abandoned except the premise of new industry, shipments, etc has kept it alive. Furthermore, the legal side of rail ownership/leasing/etc. has dampened these effects of growth. Everyone talks about the work and growth that VRS has done in the stretch of track from White River Junction to Newport and it would be great if they could somehow make the push into NH.

What kind of additional industry could we see? Presby Plastics in Whitefield, NH ships by railcar periodically, but zoning issues, permits, etc. have slowed that growth (as well as other economic variables).

Rail south of Littleton, NH was removed- before the WalMart, Home Depot and Lowes stores went in. Could we ever see a transload facility put in there or Whitefield? What about an expansion of one in St. Johnsbury?

Cowford
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Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by Cowford » Tue Oct 26, 2010 7:53 pm

4266 wrote:The wholesale number refers only to the product immediately after production. Basic economics always states that transportation costs and otherwise are added to the RETAIL value which as high as it is, will always be competitive with oil costs.
Not sure what you mean by this. Wholesale prices, like retail prices may or may not include transportation costs from the point of purchase (as in "only $19.99 plus shipping an handling). Here is my point (and I'll use your numbers). The production cost for the Baldwin producer is about $115/ton. The going wholesale price in Maine is $165/ton. Assuming that number is FOB Baldwin, ME the pellet guys make a margin of $50/ton or about $1200 per truckload. Next come the steps from plant to consumer. As the going retail price is $265/ton (FOB your friendly pellet supplier's dock), there's $100/ton available to pay to transport the pellets from Baldwin to a distribution center (or directly to a retailer), pay for fees to distributors that broker the relationship between mfgr and retailer, and provide the retailer a margin for his/her efforts. I'd guess a retailer would want ~$50/ton, an intermediate broker ~$20/ton, and transport/storage/etc. to be $20-30/ton (remember: this crap gets burned four months a year but is produced year-round, so someone's gotta pay to store it). Beautiful! If Mainers will buy pellets for $265/ton, everyone makes money! Ok, so let's try to expand the business to Michigan:

The latest retail pellet price in MI I can find is $189/ton.

http://www.woodpelletprice.com/index.ph ... tstart30=0

So that means that you have a spread of $74/ton ($189-115) to (a) provide a profit for the pellet mill in Maine, (b) transport the product to MI, (c) absorb brokers fees, (d) store the product as needed, and (e) provide the retailer a mark-up. Considering the spread doesn't appear to cover even needed retailer, broker and storage considerations, it doesn't matter how efficient the Mountain Division or even Maine's entire integrated, green, pie-in-the-sky transportation network is.... the numbers don't work! Even if the retail price in MI was the same as ME, a Maine producer would be hard pressed to penetrate that market.

I appreciate you posting the link to the Baldwin guy's website. They talk about distant markets, but it's apparent (to me at least) it's the local, i.e., non-rail market they are going after. Some excerpts:

a state-of-the-art wood pellet manufacturing facility -- located 28 miles from downtown Portland, ME!

F.E. Wood & Sons is excited to be dealing with a strong network of local businesses to deliver this quality product to our market -- Maine!

F.E. Wood & Sons is looking for active partners in the local and national distribution channel. If you are a local business owner who needs a high quality, low ash content pellet fuel supply, give us a call or e-mail, and we can discuss plans for the future! Remember: We are located only 28 miles from Portland, ME! This is a great opportunity to reduce transportation costs, and get access to the quality fuel that your customers need!

4266
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Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by 4266 » Tue Oct 26, 2010 9:03 pm

So we've proven that there's no way for the Baldwin Pellet Mill to make a profit in Michigan. At least if they were to try to compete with one of the lower figures on the pricing index. Well, there goes my "pie-in-the-sky" dreams...
And based on the quotes you selectively posted (as opposed to my selections, which skillfully omitted any references to trucking) it would seem like the Baldwin Mill has no interest in rail shipment because they are EXCLUSIVELY focused on the local residential market. Well I'm going to propose a radical proposition so bear with me here..
IS IT POSSIBLE THAT WE'RE BOTH RIGHT?
Maybe these guys want to reach BOTH the residential, local market by truck AND the national utility generation market by rail. Maybe they even say this on their website
Local Network

  F.E. Wood & Sons is excited to be dealing with a strong network of local businesses to deliver this quality product to our market -- Maine! 

Feedstock suppliers:  Loggers and Truckers, Sawmills and Chipper Mills, Timberlot Owners and Sustainable Harvest Managers will all be working together to provide clean, quality feedstock for our product. 

Pellet Distribution:  All over New England, small, family owned businesses have been providing the core market growth for Pellet fuel.  These businesses are excited to be working alongside a company that is dedicated to quality and consistency.  Truckers, Sales Organizations, and Distribution will all be operated by local New England businesses, who are in the field every day, taking care of the bottom line: the satisfaction of the customer.

National Network

  F.E. Wood & Sons is proud to be providing Wood Pellet Fuel for some of the world's most important energy objectives -- Clean Electricity Generation.  Our facility is designed to produce a large volume of high quality, high BTU content, low emissions/pollutant pellets, specifically for use by electricity generating utilities.  We are working with multiple facilities at the present to provide long term arrangements for their fuel needs, and to meet Federal and International emissions and generation regulations of the near future.

  Efficient Logistics:  F.E. Wood & Sons is working with the State of Maine, as well as the Department of Transportation and various Rail organizations to shore up support and funding for the revitalization of the Mountain Division Rail.  This rail line runs right through our current site, and would provide access to our product from any market across the United States.  Many utilities throughout the United States require this connection, so it is an important element of our project that we are concentrating on.

  Quality Standards:  Our feedstock is meticulously tested to ensure that pollutants are kept to an absolute minimum, and the stringent quality standards of United States and European utilities are able to be met.  Our facility is a state-of-the-art production process, which will provide precise quality controls for moisture content and durability, as well as keeping material handling at a minimum.  This will ensure production efficiency, as well as reduced product breakdown.

Cowford
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Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by Cowford » Tue Oct 26, 2010 10:40 pm

Oh, I've no doubt they're drooling over global markets; the question is how realistic that desire is... and what it amounts to, rail-wise. Let's say they would ship 25% of their product to far-flung reaches of the US and 75% moves rail. That equates to no more than 200 cars/yr. Not exactly a compelling argument to spend millions on track.

4266
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Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by 4266 » Wed Oct 27, 2010 9:49 am

This is why I thought this discussion needs its own thread. I think the real issue here is a philosophical one. Should the state DOT use rail revitalization as a form of rural subsidy? Obviously my own feeling is towards the affirmative, but there obviously needs to be a rational basis for such spending. As GOKeefe has pointed out in this and the MTN thread, the MDOT threshold for what seems to justify investment is admittedly very low. However, my fellow Maine residents and some astute faraway observers may note that Maine was recently voted by Forbes Magazine to rank 50th in states to do business in!!! Everybody is open to ANYTHING at this point because NONE of the traditional methods are working!!! While there are many other reasons for this inhospitable climate (according to the Maine Chamber of Commerce) but lack of a transportation infrastructure is right up there with health care costs, regulations, taxes and energy costs. Transportation and energy are the only problems that aren't necessarily related to the never ending cycle of an ageing population (Maine has the oldest population in the US, which drives up Health Care costs and social security claims which in turn requires a higher tax rate and so on...) so spending some money on a project that appears to solves the problems of transportation AND energy (with the wood pellets) is a win/win.

gokeefe
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Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by gokeefe » Wed Oct 27, 2010 12:11 pm

When discussing Maine industrial decline and so-called 'inhospitable' business I think there may also be a broader question of history in play.

For almost a century and a half Maine's commercial activity was heavily related to natural resources production and in some cases manufacturing that relied on trans-Atlantic commerce for raw material. The first major trend to damage Maine's position in the national economy seems to be the shift of raw materials away from trans-Atlantic corridors to trans-Pacific corridors. Obviously Maine's geographic location makes it uniquely disadvantaged in this regard. Second, two issues appear to have affected industry related to natural resources production and these have been far more recent, first changes to environmental regulations that affected supply costs for raw material. Second, most recently, competition from overseas producers who have now mastered the producton techniques necessary to create a high-quality product at a competitive price, even given the additional cost of transoceanic transportation.

As these two trends were playing out over the middle and latter span of the 20th century the railroads in Maine responded with a series of cutbacks along with the occasional bankruptcy. At the same time a modal shift by the traveling public came into full blossom in the post-war era. This modal shift to passenger cars was reaching it's peak probably sometime around 1955-1972. The 'beginning of the end' as it were was likely the first oil crisis in October 1973. This change also hastened decreases in capacity by the railroads. Maine was an 'early adopter' while other railroads to one extent or another ended their passenger operations during the 60's, 70's and for the very last holdouts the 80's.

Other trends also affected railroad traffic. As the interstate highway system was built out (which took well into the 1970's in Maine) freight traffic also went through a modal shift which was hastened by federal deregulation of road freight with the Motor Carrier Act of 1980. A period of prolonged low oil prices from about 1984 until 2008 contributed towards strong trends for trucking with anemic growth in railroad freight traffic, at least in Maine. Historically Maine was also one of the least densely populated states on the east coast and lately has also become one of the oldest states in the country. One could potentially make the case that of all the locations in the United States, Maine is potentially in the worst position geographically and demographically to withstand all of the above trends.

Over the course of this entire process the Department of Transportation for the State of Maine chose to preserve the Rights of Way for the rail corridors as they were abandoned one by one, mostly by the sucessor to the Maine Central Railroad, Guilford Transportation Industries. In some cases these rail corridors were preserved as intact railroads with 'appurtunances' and track intact. In other cases only the right of way with the physical path of the former rail line was preserved.

The real question at this point is, "Why didn't Maine's railroads simply cease to exist?". The first reason is that natural resource based manufacturing was still healthy well into the 1980's and 1990's, producing steady and reliable traffic volumes for Maine railroads. To this day this traffic is still largely responsibly for the continued existence of major originating traffic in Maine. The second reason is more complex but I think it has a lot to do with what we have been observing over the past few years on the Mountain Division.

Recently there has been a complex interplay between new environmental regulation and changes to the energy market, mostly related to the economic growth of China and India which have suddenly made clean energy and renewable resources very much in demand. Maine perhaps unlike any other state in the East has an abundance of both. Furthermore, part of these changes, along with the continued expansion of the Boston suburbs/exurbs northward has brought about the return of the passenger train. Although the railroads in Maine are not necessarily suited to modern 'high-speed' operation due to their 19th century construction and layout, in general the corridors travel point to point locations that make a lot of sense for 21st century passenger rail service.

Knowing about the pellet mills it may be convenient to say that the Mountain Division service restoration is driven by demand for 'clean energy'. However, it may also be true to say that there is a recognition that the time may be coming when over the road freight to rural areas like Western Maine may become prohibitively expensive. MDOT has also recognized, probably since before the Rockland Branch rehabilitation in 1994, that keeping rail lines open was the only hope to ensure that industrial business at least consider locating in Maine in the future.

However, as we have seen with this entire process from start to finish, passenger service or industrial use alone are usually not enough to generate sufficient political support for these rehabilitation projects. Potential passenger services help generate broad community support for these projects, especially in communities that focus on seasonal tourism. Potential freight services help generate support from municipal governments and businesses which want to realize increases in revenues from higher commercial activity. In essence the potential for passenger service seems to enable the local governments to support the rail line projects for the sake of the commercial interests. This dynamic is almost identical to the one that played out in the 19th century during the initial construction period for the national railroads. Communities that wanted passenger service pushed local governments to have various concessions made in order to ensure the railroads went through their towns.

Now it is happenning all over again on a micro-scale. This time around instead of private investors who are pursuing traffic loads of freight and some passengers, the state and local governments are pursuing industrial economic opportunity along with the reintroduction of some form of limited passenger service. This is a dynamic that is far beyond the conventional 'car-load' analysis which treats economic viability as a function of freight revenues.

In essence the towns are saying they can no longer accept having an inactive railroad any more than they could having accept their public street pavement torn up. This is a dramatic shift from the previous model in which the privately owned lines operated more or less according to their own needs and desires, with the final act of this paradigm being service cuts, abandonment and final sale to the State. The new model in Maine states that the railroads shall be operated according to the needs and desires of local business, government and citizenry. The Rockland Branch really seems to bear this out.

This by no means indicates that the state-owned rail lines will be forever consuming more money than they generate. The addition of as little as one major plant operation could change that overnight. It does however mean that the likelihood of these lines ever being abandoned and tornup for scrap is almost none as online businesses and communities could very well continue to generate minor incremental traffic almost indefinitely. This entire model seems predicated on locally originated traffic that is then fed to the regional and national 'bridge' lines. Part of what makes the entire 'local' model for rail corridor development seem so absurd, especially on the Mountain Division, is that these projects are being proposed on lines that were originally designed to serve primarily bridge traffic. While initially this may be an impediment to the project completion due to the remote location and extensive maintenance that must be done to allow operation, in general the lines also offer some of the most efficient corridors of transportation for locally originating traffic, especially for traffic intended to by interchanged to the regional and national operators.

Overall I think this new model helps local Maine communities address their needs for continued economic development that is sustainable and clean. I think this analysis is a good description of what we have seen happen over the past 15-20 years and it appears to be the trend for quite some time to come.
gokeefe

Mikejf
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Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by Mikejf » Wed Oct 27, 2010 7:51 pm

4266 wrote: However, my fellow Maine residents and some astute faraway observers may note that Maine was recently voted by Forbes Magazine to rank 50th in states to do business in!!! Everybody is open to ANYTHING at this point because NONE of the traditional methods are working!!! While there are many other reasons for this inhospitable climate (according to the Maine Chamber of Commerce) but lack of a transportation infrastructure is right up there with health care costs, regulations, taxes and energy costs.
Taxes. You said it. They keep going up. Sneaking them in here and there. For what? Why to help fund projects like this.

But I am still inclined to ask, why Baldwin? Why couldn't they build the plant on an active rail line, perhaps using a factory already served by rail that is closing?

And reading your quotes, it seems like they are already operating. Is this true? I haven't been over that way this year to see if there is a new plant in the area.

Mike

gokeefe
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Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by gokeefe » Thu Oct 28, 2010 4:38 am

Mike,

If you look at the basic fiscal picture for the State of Maine, bond issues such as this one are a drop in the bucket compared to the costs of unemployment, and in particular MEDICAID, which consumes almost half of the state budget. Our biggest problems are the result of a bad economy in the rural parts of the state and the rising costs of sustaining social programs that continue to be swamped with people who are unable to find work. Problems such as this make the state government uniquely receptive to almost any program or project that will lay claim to either maintaining or creating jobs.

If Maine is going to be serious about developing new uses for their natural resources that contribute to clean energy then rail transport solutions are very likely a required part of the equation. Like everyone else I would prefer to see online industries pushing for this, however as mentioned in my previous post it seems very clear that the railroad must be present first in order to allow for future development.
gokeefe

4266
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Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by 4266 » Thu Oct 28, 2010 9:06 am

GOKEEFE,
Ditto on the cost of Medicaid and unemployment, but if that were the only problem facing Maine we would be no worse off than the rest of the country (although the current state unemployment rate is misleadingly lower than the national average). The real problem is the aging population. Maine usually competes with Vermont for the distinction of having the oldest per-capita population, which means the most people on Medicare, Social Security and retirement pensions. the latter of which has the potential to force the state into bankruptcy within the next decade. This is a HUGE problem that the rest of the country doesn't have to deal with as much. It just so happens that New Brunswick, Canada had a very similar demographic crisis a few years ago and responded to it by increasing immigration, and targeting youth employment initiatives such as bolstering the "creative economy". The result has been an increase of the working-age population for the first time in a generation.
A few years ago The Maine Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Development Corporation even sponsored a conference which hired consultants from the New Brunswick policy to create new programs in Maine. The result? After a year, the state pulled the funding and now all that's left is an empty Facebook page with fewer "fans" than the "I Partied in the Woods of Maine" fan page...
What does this have to do with rail funding? Well besides everything you mentioned, rail that attracts industry brings good jobs which in turn generate more service jobs etc... In addition, recent studies clearly show that the classic American love affair between young people and their cars may be approaching it's end (I posted the link in another thread but I'll post again when I find it). More and more young people are opting for mass transit because using their iPhones, iPads and other devices is more of a status symbol than driving the new car. car companies were the first to notice this trend which is why they wisely responded with new models like the Ford Fiesta which get the mileage of a hybrid, and include high tech hands free device integration. but this won't be enough to stem the tide. Soon, people will be accustomed to driving less than sixty miles radius from their homes (if electric cars go into mass production) and access to the nearest public transit "node" will be a deciding factor in choosing a place to live.
Places like Brunswick are uniquely positioned to offer all the affordability and benefits of rural living while offering the access to public transportation and cultural life that most would associate with urban areas.
OK... I better stop now... I never like it when Cowford has been quiet for this long... It always makes me a little too comfortable in my utopian rantings. Cowford? IT YOUR TURN :-D

Mikejf
Posts: 1600
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 6:46 pm
Location: Maine

Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by Mikejf » Thu Oct 28, 2010 6:55 pm

I see why I haven't seen this place yet, if it is under construction or in use. Tucked away on a back road

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source= ... 8&t=h&z=14

Looks like they will need to ship by truck to get to the railhead.

rjones2
Posts: 89
Joined: Mon Jun 06, 2005 7:22 pm

Re: Rail Related Development in Northern New England

Post by rjones2 » Fri Oct 29, 2010 8:28 am

A new truck to train transload facility opened in Burlington, VT a few weeks ago.

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/arti ... Burlington
Thursday morning, representatives of the collaboration gathered around a 28-ton truckload of pelletized limestone bound for York, Pa. Without ceremony, the pull of a lever sent a thick stream of granules into a conveyor and seconds later into the top hatch of a parallel-parked rail car with a capacity of 102 tons. Vermont Railways Vice President Jerome Hebda said the facility would likely revive his “car-load” business — the door-to-door delivery of bulk goods that taps into the railroad’s long-haul brawn but begins and ends by truck. Not too many decades ago, a business of any size would incorporate a short rail spur into its delivery system, he said.

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