PAR: Mattawamkeag Line Fix Will Cost $42 Million

PAR'S C.R.I.S.I. Grant Proposal Requests $21 Million (PAR will also Pony Up the Same Amount) to Bring Tattered 'KEAG Route Up to Class 2/286K by Mid-2023. Until then, New Operator will have Only Marginal Access to Saint John.

19.June, Billerica MA Pan Am Railways submitted a proposal to the Federal Railroad Administration for a $20,996,786 grant from the FY2020 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) funding opportunity to rebuild the 111.16-mile Pine Tree Corridor (a/k/a, Mattawamkeag line) in central Maine, running from Mattawamkeag (KEAG MP 0.41) to Bangor (CPF 111/MP 111.57).

The comprehensive project aims to restore the Pan Am start line to Class 2 track speeds, and upgrade the whole line to 286K capacity, by virtue of these improvements:

  • Replace >75 miles of 85#, 100#, and 112# jointed rail with new Continuously Welded 115# Rail (Equaling ~37 miles of mainline track).
  • Upgrade ~74 miles of retained track to 286K capacity
  • Installation of ~55,000 new cross ties,
  • Replace 40 mainline turnouts,
  • Upgrading 72 grade crossings,
  • Strengthen five bridges,
  • Replace deck timbers on 20 bridges

Bangor Region ME

Map of southern Maine
Guilford Rail System/Pan Am Railways headwaters bubble up in Mattawamkeag ME, where New England’s dominant rail network interchanges with Eastern Maine Railway (EMRY, part of NBSR/Irving), to access the Max-class ports of Saint John and Halifax. Due to the ‘Keag line’s mysterious deterioration during the GRS/PAR era, PAR contracted with EMRY and CMQ (MMA) to bring Canadian traffic ’round the horn via Brownville Jct. (BVJ) and Northern Maine Jct. (NMJ). With CP recalibrating the CMQ for long-haul unit train traffic, such mom-‘n-pop arrangements won’t be renewed. That leaves PAR, and its Patriot Corridor partner NS with only a marginal route to Port Saint John. Prospective PAR buyers can’t be too happy about that {PAR CRISI proposal, annotated by R&P}

Two halves = a greater whole

The ~$21 million request represents 50% of the estimated project cost, with the other 50% of the funding to be supplied by PAR in cash ($8,398,715) and in-kind goods/services ($12,598,071). CRISI eligibility rules require that private investment cover only 20% of project cost. The total anticipated cost of the Pine Tree Corridor Project is $41,993,572.

The improvements will raise the capacity along the entire PAR Mattawamkeag — Mechanicville mainline to 286K, extending to Port Saint John in the east (via EMRY/NBSR) and interchanging with Norfolk Southern’s network to the west. Track speeds will jump to 25 mph from the current, temporary (since 2012) 10 mph limit. Transit time for PAR traffic interchanged to and from NBSR will be reduced by at least a day, due to elimination of the longer haulage move to Brownville Junction on CP, elimination of the additional interchange and handling by CPR at Brownville and Northern Maine Junctions, and higher track speeds.

Learn to forgive yourself

The 25-page Proposal narrative is thorough both in the extent of work to be performed, and in arguing that the project is vital to the economy of Maine and the entire region. Apart from the ironic implication that maintenance and operating costs are unsustainable, the Proposal expresses little perception of the reasons behind the line’s long deterioration.

One might consider that the applicant’s sudden interest in its restoration stems from the liability that the line, in its current state, imposes on the transaction value of the PAR system. Until the project is complete, the only substantial international port (Saint John) on the PAR system is connected by a thread to the national rail network.

But a hint of contrition is evident: the Proposal emphasizes in several places that, “scrap ties will be disposed of in accordance with state and federal regulations.”

What $42 million buys these days

Itemization of project components:

Rail Replacement – $17,618,000

Approximately 37 track-miles of 115RE continuous welded rail (CWR) will be installed to eliminate jointed and/or worn rail. New compromise bars will be installed to properly transition to remaining 100-lb and 112-lb rail segments. Worn, bent, broken, or obsolete tie plates will be replaced. The value of any scrapped steel will be credited to the project.

Tie Replacement and Surfacing – $8,910,500

Approximately 55,000 mainline cross ties will be replaced to attain consistent 25-mph speeds outside of yard limits. New rail anchors will be installed on replacement ties. Scrap ties will be disposed of in accordance with state and federal regulations. New stone ballast will be distributed at a rate of 500 tons per mile and track will be tamped, surfaced, and regulated to Class 2 standards.

Mainline Switch Replacement – $3,650,000

Forty worn mainline switches will be replaced with 115RE switch packages. Turnout size will typically be #10, however, #15 packages will be installed at Pittsfield Siding, CPF 107, and CPF 109 where higher speed through the turnout is required.

Grade Crossing Reconstruction – $7,458,447

Upgrade 72 public highway-rail grade crossings. Requirements for each grade crossing is based on the following factors: a) service life, b) effectiveness of warning devices, c) placement of warning devices, d) type of train detection technology, and e) overall condition. The effectiveness of warning system devices can be determined based on considering the following: a) geometric characteristics of roadway, b) proximity to intersections, c) traffic density, d) train and automobile speeds, e) sight distances for train and auto traffic, and f) historical data points.

Bridge Deck Replacement – $698,325

Open timber decks will be replaced at 20 bridges between MP 12.10 and MP 110.50. New creosote-treated bridge ties and spacers will be installed for the full length of the structures. Bridge ties appropriate to the size and length of the timbers to be replaced will be utilized on each bridge. Scrap bridge ties will be disposed of in accordance with state and federal regulations.

Bridge Strengthening – $3,008,300

Strengthen four bridges and shift the alignment of a fifth bridge to achieve 286k carrying capacity:

  • MP 45.44 Bridge – Penobscot River, Milford, ME: Add an additional floor stringer in each truss panel and new diaphragms connecting new and existing stringers.
  • MP 45.64 Bridge – Penobscot River, Old Town ME (Oldtown East): Add new steel to each of the four top chord panels, and replace the truss top diagonal bracing of four trusses.
  • MP 45.69 Bridge – Penobscot River, Old Town, ME (Oldtown West): Add new steel to six floor beams and various diagonal members. Strengthen eight diagonal truss members.
  • MP 49.91 Bridge – Stillwater River, Orono, ME: Add 23 floor stringers (one in each truss panel) and new connecting diaphragms.

MP 59.04 Bridge – Dutton Street, Bangor, ME, Track Realignment: Construct 600 feet of new track on approaches to and across the unused second span of the bridge. Install new bridge timbers on the second span. Cut and shift approximately 265 feet of mainline track on each end of the span to tie into the newly constructed track.

Project Schedule

Assuming that the project is awarded per the proposal, and Notice to Proceed is issued in Q1.2021, shovels will hit dirt in Q4.21. Construction will be completed in Q2.23, and the project wrapped up by Q4.23.

Gannt chart of project schedule
{Pine Tree Corridor 286K Capacity and Safety Improvements (2020 CRISI Grant Application), 19.June.20}