Expect an April decision on whether federal regulators will allow CSX to acquire New England short line Pan Am Railways, according to the Surface Transportation Board

The board said Friday that it has accepted a request by CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) to consider CSX’s application to acquire Pan Am Railways.

The board’s decision sets a procedural schedule that will include deadlines for additional filings by the applicants, a public comment period that will look at transportation merits and environmental angles and a deadline for a final board decision.

According to the schedule, STB will issue its decision on the acquisition by April 1, 2022, with the decision going into effect on May 1, 2022. Between now and then, CSX and other parties will discuss the merits of CSX’s request, including how the acquisition might affect freight and passenger rail operations in affected areas. 

STB also asked for additional environmental information from CSX, but it determined that the environmental and historic review is not necessary, the board said Friday. An environmental review as well as a safety integration plan have due dates in August.

STB had previously determined on May 26 that CSX’s application was incomplete. Friday’s decision determines that CSX’s revised application meets the qualifications for a “significant” transaction since the application includes a market analysis and an operating plan.

The board’s decision is available here.

Meanwhile, CSX said Thursday that its plans to acquire Pan Am Railways has garnered additional support from the region, including from Maine Governor Janet Mills as well as four shippers, two municipalities and one member of the New York State Assembly, all of whom submitted letters of support to STB.

CSX has said the acquisition would entail anticipated investments to upgrade Pan Am’s infrastructure. The railroad said nearly 90 customers, elected officials and state and local governments have expressed their support to the board. 

According to CSX, Mills wrote to the board, “This transaction has the potential to bring substantial benefits to Maine. The state of Maine relies on rail traffic to deliver goods and support our economy. If the transaction is approved, CSX has indicated that it will make upgrades to track and locomotives to provide improved service, extend positive train control on Amtrak’s Downeaster, and make other improvements to the rail network. These changes would benefit Maine businesses and shippers that rely on freight rail to ship products and goods and positively impact passenger rail service.”

According to Friday’s decision from the board, CSX entered into a settlement agreement with the Maine Department of Transportation, in which CSX agreed to work cooperatively to complete certain federal infrastructure grants to upgrade PAR System line segments in Maine, and to work together on future projects to increase capacity, enhance safety, and promote efficient railroad operations. 

CSX announced last November, following months of speculation, its intention to acquire Pan Am Railways. The acquisition would add Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to CSX’s 23-state network, and it would expand CSX’s presence in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. 

Pan Am’s subsidiaries make Pan Am the largest regional railroad in North America, according to CSX. The short line operates nearly 1,200 miles of track across New England, with access to multiple ports and large-scale commodity producers. Pan Am also has a partial interest in Pan Am Southern.

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Related links:

CSX resubmits application to acquire Pan Am Railways

CSX’s application to acquire Pan Am Railways denied

STB tells CSX to refile application to acquire Pan Am Railways