Traffic has tripled along the 233-mile-long Maine Northern Railway line that runs between just outside Millinocket to Madawaska, facilitated by track repairs funded by a $10.5 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant and private investment by New Brunswick-based J.D. Irving Ltd., which owns the rail line.
The rail line's traffic could increase even more as a result of increasing production at Great Northern paper company in Millinocket, according to Maine Public Broadcasting Network. The paper mill recently reported plans to hire at least 40 new workers to catch up on a 35-day backlog of orders.
Two years ago a $20 million state bond was used to purchase that rail line – then owned by Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway – and keep it from being abandoned, to save up to 1,000 jobs and preserve service to 25 commercial customers. MPBN reported that Irving-owned companies account for the big boost in the rail car traffic, but other Maine firms, including Irving competitors, are also using the line more. Employment at Maine Northern Railway has increased from 35 employees to 61 and "is growing every day," Nate Moulton, director of the Maine Department of Transportation's railroad program, told MPBN.