UPDATE #2 // PAR: Madison Abandonment to Proceed

The Madison Branch's abandonment is no surprise

Madison branch trail
The Verified Notice of Exemption specifies that PAR expects to sell the entire Madison Branch corridor to the State of Maine for conversion into a rail trail. Apparently, the North Anson – Embden stretch included in the VNE is already in use as a trail {Maine Rail Trail Plan 2020-2030}.

Update#2 – 11.August.2021

11.August.2021, Washington DC – The STB Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) and the Maine Historic Preservation Commission have determined that separate conditions imposed in the 08.July Decision to conditionally approve the abandonment are satisfied.

OEA concluded that the abandonment is exempt from Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act, and the HPC similarly opined that the abandonment would have no adverse effect on historic properties.

Approval that the conditions have been satisfied remove all impediments to the Proceeding.

Update#1 – 08.July.2021

08.July.2021, Washington DC – The STB granted PAR’s petition to abandon the Madison Branch running between Oakland and Embden ME. Per the 24.June Verified Notice of Exemption (VNE) (STB #302586), PAR is expected to negotiate a sale of the line to the State of Maine, which will proceed to convert all or some of the line into a trail. In consideration of that process, the Decision declared that, “Environmental, historic preservation, public use, or interim trail use/rail banking conditions will be imposed, where appropriate, in a subsequent decision.”

PAR has until 14.July.2022 to consummate the abandonment, after which the authorization will expire.

Original report – 24.June.2021

24.June.2021, Billerica MA – PAR subsidiaries Maine Central Railroad and Springfield Terminal Railroad Companies filed a VERIFIED NOTICE OF EXEMPTION (VNE) (STB #302586) for abandonment and discontinuation of service over the 32.46 mi Madison Branch running between Oakland and Embden ME.

The filing certifies that, “1) no local traffic has moved over the line for at least two years prior to the date hereof, and 2) there is no overhead traffic on the line, and no formal complaint [has been filed, or is pending, or has been decided in court] regarding cessation of service …

“The [Madison paper mill closed] in 2016, but rail service was discontinued well before that,” according to PAR Executive Vice President Cyndi Scarano {via email 28.June.2021}. According to that, the line is well past its sell-by date.

The VNE states that, “Applicants’ intent is to sell the real property to the State of Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (MEDACF), Bureau of Parks and Lands. According to C. Scarano, the State initially showed interest in acquiring the corridor around the end of 2019.

In its “Maine Rail-Trail Plan 2020-2030,” the Maine Trails Coalition expects the State to avail the corridor for conversion to a rail trail, connecting with the existing Kennebec Valley Trail, which runs for ~15 miles (including ~5 miles No. Anson – Embden that is included in the VNE).

With service discontinued for  several years, and the Madison paper mill disassembled beyond any hope of revival, the Madison Branch’s abandonment is no surprise. Clearing it off the books before it becomes CSX’s problem is a good bit of housekeeping by Pan Am.