P/sunny
40°
P/sunny
Hi 66° | Lo 36°

Bennington

DOT: Leishman’s bid to lease tracks is incomplete

Selection committee to meet next week in Concord

  • Bids submitted for the 18-mile stretch of train tracks that runs through Bennington will be reviewed Thursday, May 15, by the Department of Transportation. Pan Am Railways, of Massachusetts, and Peter Leishman, a N.H. State Rep. from Peterborough, submitted bids to lease the tracks.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Bids submitted for the 18-mile stretch of train tracks that runs through Bennington will be reviewed Thursday, May 15, by the Department of Transportation. Pan Am Railways, of Massachusetts, and Peter Leishman, a N.H. State Rep. from Peterborough, submitted bids to lease the tracks.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Bids submitted for the 18-mile stretch of train tracks that runs through Bennington will be reviewed Thursday, May 15, by the Department of Transportation. Pan Am Railways, of Massachusetts, and Peter Leishman, a N.H. State Rep. from Peterborough, submitted bids to lease the tracks.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Bids submitted for the 18-mile stretch of train tracks that runs through Bennington will be reviewed Thursday, May 15, by the Department of Transportation. Pan Am Railways, of Massachusetts, and Peter Leishman, a N.H. State Rep. from Peterborough, submitted bids to lease the tracks.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Bids submitted for the 18-mile stretch of train tracks that runs through Bennington will be reviewed Thursday, May 15, by the Department of Transportation. Pan Am Railways, of Massachusetts, and Peter Leishman, a N.H. State Rep. from Peterborough, submitted bids to lease the tracks.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Bids submitted for the 18-mile stretch of train tracks that runs through Bennington will be reviewed Thursday, May 15, by the Department of Transportation. Pan Am Railways, of Massachusetts, and Peter Leishman, a N.H. State Rep. from Peterborough, submitted bids to lease the tracks.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Bids submitted for the 18-mile stretch of train tracks that runs through Bennington will be reviewed Thursday, May 15, by the Department of Transportation. Pan Am Railways, of Massachusetts, and Peter Leishman, a N.H. State Rep. from Peterborough, submitted bids to lease the tracks.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Bids submitted for the 18-mile stretch of train tracks that runs through Bennington will be reviewed Thursday, May 15, by the Department of Transportation. Pan Am Railways, of Massachusetts, and Peter Leishman, a N.H. State Rep. from Peterborough, submitted bids to lease the tracks.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Bids submitted for the 18-mile stretch of train tracks that runs through Bennington will be reviewed Thursday, May 15, by the Department of Transportation. Pan Am Railways, of Massachusetts, and Peter Leishman, a N.H. State Rep. from Peterborough, submitted bids to lease the tracks.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

A selection committee will meet in Concord on May 15 to select a bid that determines who will lease an 18-mile stretch of railroad tracks that runs from Bennington to Milford, which has been used minimally for decades.

Last week, the Executive Council voted to table a contract between the state Department of Transportation and Pan Am Railways — that would have given rights to the track to Pan Am — until all five council members are present.

The only use of the tracks for the last 20 or years has been by the Milford-Bennington Railroad, a company owned by State Rep. Peter Leishman of Peterborough, which transports crushed stone from a quarry in Wilton to the Granite State Concrete processing plant in Milford.

In April 2012, two requests for proposals, one from Pan Am and the other from Leishman, were submitted to the DOT to lease the tracks. Leishman’s proposal was deemed incomplete, according to DOT spokesman Bill Boynton. According to published reports, Leishman said at a May 1 Executive Council meeting that it was the first he’d heard about his bid being incomplete.

Boynton confirmed in a phone interview Wednesday that Pan Am’s bid was the only responsive one, but there is still time for Leishman to submit the necessary materials before the selection committee meets again.

“The selection committee will go forward with what they have [next Thursday],” Boynton said.

Pan Am Railways Executive Vice President Cynthia Scarano said in a phone interview Wednesday that there is constant discussion regarding the tracks and their use at the company’s headquarters in North Billerica, Mass. “If Pan Am gets the bid, it will look to utilize the entirety of the tracks,” Scarano said. “Nothing is set in stone yet. Our goal is to grow the business.”

Scarano said that an agreement regarding the price of the tracks has not received executive approval yet from the DOT, but will be public information once the decision to award the lease of the tracks is made. “Our mission at DOT is to encourage the transportation of freight and goods in the state,” Boynton said.

Leishman could not be reached for comment by press time. It is unclear what Leishman’s intentions for the track would be should he be awarded the lease.

J.B. Mack, principal planner for the Southwest Region Planning Commission, said in a phone interview Tuesday that there aren’t any state plans for rehabbing the tracks that he’s aware of, but did say that the state was looking into the potential of dismantling the trestle that crosses over Antrim Road and the Contoocook River Reservoir to the Monadnock Paper Mill in Bennington. “That gives you an indication of their intentions, but that’s quite a ways up the line,” Mack said, referring to the state’s long-term plan for the tracks.

He added that there is a large residential and community population that crosses the trestle via snowmobile or on foot; the recreational use of the trestle is an important part of the town. But as far as using the tracks for transportation, Mack said there is no other entity other than Leishman’s company that currently uses the tracks. “Like all abandoned railroads, a lot are owned by the state, which is reserving the right to use them in the future,” Mack said.

At one time, the tracks were in use to transport paper products and raw materials.

Richard Verney, CEO of the Monadnock Paper Mill, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the mill lost rail service in the mid-1980s. And although the mill has put a lot of money into maintaining the tracks, Verney said it’s unlikely there will ever be rail service again from the paper mill, especially after the company switched to using truck lines to haul products in the ’80s.

“The bottom line is the contract with Pan Am for this branch line that came before the governing council was tabled last week, and it will probably come up again,” Verney said. “In reality, the chances are slim we’d go back to rail service.”

Bennington Town Administrator Dee French said in a phone interview Tuesday that nothing related to the train tracks is going through Town Hall at this point. “We’re out of the loop on this one,” French said.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.