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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

When I talk to business leaders around the State, the two biggest concerns that they have are the cost of energy and the cost of transportation.

And the two are related.

During my eight years, we have been aggressive in our efforts to reduce energy costs and explore new, homegrown alternatives.

We’ve also focused on improving our transportation network, making it more secure and efficient.

For many industries, including Maine’s important wood products, paper and agricultural industries, freight rail is often the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to bring raw materials into their factories and ship their products out.

Early this spring, the privately owned Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway began proceedings to abandon about 233 miles of track in Aroostook and Penobscot counties.

The move sent a wave of uncertainty through Aroostook and its largest employers.

Without the rail line, between 750 and 1,000 jobs would be threatened, and entire communities would be put at risk.

We couldn’t allow those tracks to be pulled from the ground and sold for scrap.

They are too important.

This week, Maine reached agreement to purchase the railroad and save freight rail service in Aroostook County, which service not only Aroostook County but the entire State of Maine and New England.

Earlier this year, Maine voters showed their support for saving the railroad when they approved a bond that will partially fund the purchase.

In a true public-private partnership, one of the shippers on the line also stepped forward to help fund the acquisition.

But the purchase of the railroad is just part of the story.

Last week, we also learned that Maine received a $10.5 million federal grant, which will fund much-needed upgrades along the lines.

The bipartisan efforts of Sen. Susan Collins, who works closely with the United States Department of Transportation, Sen. Olympia Snowe, Congressman Mike Michaud, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree made sure that the Obama administration recognized the importance of the railroad.

And Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood rewarded those efforts with significant support for improvements to the line.

After the repairs are made, traffic on the line will be able to travel faster, more efficiently and safer, reducing costs for Maine businesses and getting their products to market quicker.

I know that there have been skeptics who question the wisdom of this investment.

But if the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway had been lost, the economic impact would have hurt the entire State.

Jobs would have been lost.

Industry centers in Northern Maine and Central Maine would have been crippled.

Instead, we are celebrating the revitalization of a critical transportation link.

Preserving rail and extending it across the State is vital to keeping the Maine state economy competitive. Saving the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway is just one success story.

We’re also making important investments in rail lines that are paying dividends around the State.

On Friday, we cut the ribbon on an important improvement project at Danville Junction in Auburn.

The project was made possible by a voter-supported bond and support from the private sector and the federal government.

Danville Junction was designed in the late 1800s and hadn’t changed much in 100 years.

It was inefficient and created significant delays for Maine businesses.

With the Danville Junction Gateway Project, Pan Am Railways and the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad can work better together and better serve their customers in Maine.

The improvements save time and money, make the area safer and reduce the amount of pollution created.

Also on Friday, I visited with workers who are helping to bring the Downeaster passenger rail service north of Portland to Brunswick and Freeport.

Since it began operation in 2001, the Downeaster has welcomed more than 3 million passengers, and this past year it saw record-breaking ridership.

It’s been a goal of my Administration to expand passenger rail service to Brunswick.

And now that goal is becoming a reality.

The State, working with the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which operates the Downeaster, and Pan Am Railways, is making great progress.

With the help of federal funds from the Recovery Act, passenger service is expanding north.

Since the first shipment of rail arrived on Aug. 2, crews have installed about 14 miles of rail between Brunswick and Yarmouth.

The project is running on time and on budget – just like any good railroad – and should be finished in the fall 2012, when passenger service will start to Brunswick.

The expanded service will help bring new people to Maine’s Midcoast and the repairs will also improve service for freight trains.

It is good for the environment and will encourage new developments all along Maine’s coast, creating jobs and private-sector investments.

And improved freight and passenger rail service will help Maine reduce its dependence on costly oil.

Our air will be cleaner.

And we will have a more cost-effective ways to connect Maine people and businesses to the markets around New England and the world.

Smart investments, like those we are making in freight and passenger rail, will strengthen Maine’s economy for years to come.

Thank you and have a good weekend.

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