“This is news to all of us, and we are trying to figure out what the motivation behind this was,” City Manager Clinton Deschene said Tuesday. “It is interesting timing.”

Canadian National posted a customer notification on its website Friday saying that its service to the Intermodal Freight Transfer Facility would end Nov. 15.

Mark Hallman, spokesman for Canadian National Railway, said shipping via the Auburn facility no longer made financial sense.

“Traffic volumes are not sufficient to sustain the service,” Hallman said. “This is a business decision, and CN does not disclose its internal marketing and financial analysis. There is just inadequate traffic to sustain this.”

Officials at St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad’s Auburn headquarters were unavailable to comment Tuesday on what the CN’s decision would mean for their operation. The railroad owns and operates the Auburn Intermodal facility.

The intermodal facility, off Lewiston Junction Road across from the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, opened in 1994 and was expanded in 2000 by the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad. It offers high-capacity freight shipping between Canada and the rest of the U.S. via the Canadian National Railway and St. Lawrence and Atlantic’s U.S. line.

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By 2000, the facility was transferring nearly 5,000 units per year — mostly over-the-road trailers stacked on flatbed rail cars.

Dick Trafton, president of the Lewiston-Auburn Railroad Corp., said his board knew that Canadian National’s use of the facility had decreased in recent years.

But word of the discontinuance was ” news to us,” Trafton said. “We did not receive any previous notice from either Canadian National or St. Lawrence and Atlantic.”

L-A Railroad owns the 5.4 miles of track from Lincoln Street in Lewiston to Lewiston Junction in Auburn and leases it to St. Lawrence and Atlantic and Savage-Safe Handling, among other companies.

The St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail line and the Auburn intermodal facility were sold by Pennsylvania-based Emons Transportation Group to the Genesee and Wyoming Railroad in 2002. Mario Brault, president of Genesee and Wyoming, was unavailable for comment.

Trafton said Canadian National is not the only user of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic line. He noted that Safe Handling’s operation off Rodman Road continues to thrive — as do other companies.

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“All you have to do is go down the line and see who has frontage along it and sidings along the line,” Trafton said.

Jeff Hymas, director of communications for Savage Services, said Canadian National’s decision would have no effect on his company. Savage has owned Auburn’s Safe Handling operation since 2009.

“We won’t be affected because the company does not receive containers there,” he said. “We continue to access the railway through our own Auburn operation.”

Trafton said L-A Railroad’s board of directors plans to meet in September.

“We are always concerned about changes that may affect the railroad, but we are still sorting out what the impact will be and whether there may be an opportunity to provide for changes in the use of the track,” Trafton said.

Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said the situation shows how local officials have failed to promote the city’s loading capacity. He said the intermodal facility is a favorite topic for economic development officials in speeches, but many local businesses are unaware of how it could help them.

“This is not just a Lewiston-Auburn asset,” LaBonte said. “There is an ability for a paper mill or manufacturer in Franklin County to be able to move something 40 miles and have international distribution. But you can’t just talk about it in a PowerPoint presentation. You need to be out on the street talking to businesses that could benefit.”

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