FORT KENT — A railroad crossing used for 30 years by residents of Daigle’s Trailer Park and Subdivision in Fort Kent closed on schedule Tuesday. However it could be well into this summer before Camille Daigle, owner of the development, gets an answer to his request for limited access.
Daigle Drive, the road that crosses the railroad track, linked 38 mobile homes and seven houses in the development with Route 161.
Bangor and Aroostook Railroad Co. President Walter Travis said earlier that the crossing, which allowed access to Daigle’s development, originally was granted as a farm crossing. It later was classified as a private crossing, a designation for crossings granted to individuals or families. Over the years, the number of users increased to the point that it became a problem for the railroad.
Among the events that led to the B&A decision to close the crossing were two motor vehicle accidents, one of which resulted in serious injury and a lawsuit. Closing the crossing would absolve the railroad of any liability in connection with accidents there.
After a three-year legal battle between Daigle and the railroad, B&A received court permission to close the private crossing.
Fort Kent Town Council Chairman Marc Michaud said the crossing was closed Tuesday as planned and that a culvert at the alternate access way had been replaced. Daigle had removed the culvert, leaving the railroad crossing as the only access way.
“People are using the other entrance. It’s not like they’re stuck. They’ve got adequate access,” Michaud said. The alternate access is from U.S. Route 1 by way of Highland Avenue Extension and Brookside Park, a residential section of the community.
Michaud said about 20 people attended Monday’s final meeting on the matter of closing the crossing. About eight of those who attended were residents of Daigle’s development or otherwise affected by the closure.
Camille Daigle, who did not attend the meeting, was represented by his sons Delbert and Carey and by Hubert Thibodeau, a University of Maine at Fort Kent professor who has lived in the trailer park for eight years.
Through his representatives, “Daigle made a request of B&A to close the crossing to the public but to allow him access to go do some work in there,” Michaud said. The spokesmen said Daigle would purchase liability insurance if the railroad approved his request.
“B&A, through its president, essentially said that the issue of the crossing is right now between B&A and Mr. Daigle, a private corporation and a private citizen, because there is litigation pending on a prior problem,” he said.
He said Travis “was not going to make any commitment but he welcomed a meeting with Mr. Daigle.”
“There were a few people who would have liked to have seen the crossing stay open but under the circumstances that’s not likely,” Michaud said. “There has to be substantial interest on the part of the residents and willingness of the owner,” he said.
“It is not a public crossing. The cost to make it a public crossing would be high,” he said, noting that it is questionable whether the crossing would qualify as a public thoroughfare under DOT requirements.
Based on discussion with Travis after the meeting, Michaud said, it would probably be “well into summer” before Daigle gets an answer to his request.
Fort Kent Town Manager Alain Ouellette said the town had no plans to take steps toward continued public access at the crossing.
“Everything is on schedule for B&A and we are here to help in any way we can, but the issue is basically between Mr. Daigle and the railroad,” Ouellette said.