Pan Am damage in Deerfield not a factor in potential sale

  • The East Deerfield Railyard, operated by Pan Am Railways. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Buildings at the East Deerfield Railyard were damaged by wind during last week’s storm. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Buildings at the East Deerfield Railyard were damaged by wind during last week’s storm. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/13/2020 9:03:40 AM

DEERFIELD — The considerable damage the East Deerfield Railyard sustained in last week’s windstorm will not affect any sale of Pan Am Railways, according to the company’s executive vice president.

Cynthia Scarano said one building on the roughly 104-acre property was destroyed and another had its roof damaged, though the tracks are still in good condition and there were no injuries.

“It was a miracle, really,” she said.

Scarano said the damaged roof is being fixed by a combination of Pan Am workers and contractors. Pan Am has insurance for this type of situation, she said, though the damage is still being assessed and the cost of repairs is not yet known. Scarano also said the wind knocked down many trees and power lines that are being dealt with.

She declined to comment on the status of the sale or potential buyers.

The company, which is the dominant freight carrier in northern New England with 1,700 miles of track, announced it was for sale in July. Scarano said Pan Am Railways employs about 750 people throughout New England.

In August, state legislators representing cities and towns along the Route 2 rail corridor sent a letter to state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack urging proactive measures regarding the potential sale of Pan Am Railways. They cited a Massachusetts law that provides the state with a right of first refusal for the sale of any railroad right of way or related facilities within the state.

Legislators urged the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to “indicate strong interest in securing passenger rights between North Adams and Fitchburg” as well as “consider purchasing all or part of the rail corridor, at minimum, from Fitchburg to Greenfield.”

The bipartisan letter, which can be viewed at, was signed by state Sens. Jo Comerford, Anne Gobi, Adam Hinds, Jamie Eldridge and Dean Tran, and state Reps. Natalie Blais, Susannah Whipps, John Barrett, Stephan Hay and Natalie Higgins. It was also sent to Gov. Charlie Baker, members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, and the chairpersons of the Joint Committee on Transportation.

Jared Freeman, Comerford’s chief of staff, said at the time that one potential source of money for a purchase is an $18 billion transportation bond bill being negotiated by a conference committee. It includes an authorization for $175 million “for transportation planning, design, permitting and engineering, acquisition of interests in land, vehicle procurement, construction, construction of stations and right-of-way acquisition for rail projects,” as well as converting the Valley Flyer Pilot Service to a permanent commuter rail service connecting Greenfield, Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield.

The letter states “public transportation is key to opportunity, to improving the quality of life for the middle and working classes.”

U.S. News & World Report ranks Massachusetts 40th in the country for transportation infrastructure quality.

“Even the highest ranked states in the nation do not come close to the transportation quality ratings for our European and Asian counterparts,” the letter adds. “We firmly believe the commonwealth should act now to help close this considerable gap by seizing the unique opportunity embodied in the Pan Am sale and investing in existing infrastructure.”

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