The recent announcement of a TIGER VII grant to three of Maine’s railroads and the Maine Department of Transportation is a huge victory in an underprivileged part of the country and state. What shocks me about this major win, however, is how little fanfare has been seen for the $20 million provided by the federal government to meet a match of $14.9 million in funding from the applicants. Ultimately, the initiative will represent $37.3 million invested in transportation infrastructure in rural Maine.

The state of Maine is no stranger to the TIGER program. In 2010, it was awarded a $10.5 million TIGER II grant. Once the improvements it funded took place, traffic tripled on a segment of line that in 2011 had been slated for abandonment by its owner.

The aggregate investment between the TIGER II and TIGER VII is about $50 million in recent years, totaling 500 or so miles of railroad tracks spanning the state from Searsport to Bangor, Brownville to Vanceboro and Millinocket to Van Buren.

While the three private railways — the Central Maine & Quebec Railway, Eastern Maine Railway and Pan Am Railways — will certainly benefit directly from these upgrades, the state of Maine as a whole will benefit from less truck traffic on secondary roads and more jobs in railway engineering, construction, operations and administration.

To my initial point, I was surprised that this announcement received very little publicity from the LePage administration. Nate Moulton, the rail program director at Maine DOT, was the voice of the state in announcing the news. That’s not to say Moulton should be shunned, as he certainly has worked diligently to secure these grants. What disappoints me is that Gov. Paul LePage himself has done little to promote the infrastructure investments happening here in Maine to potential businesses looking to start, expand or reshore in this part of the country.

As southern parts of Maine continue to flourish — which seems to be a major focus of the administration these days from a business and political perspective — we must not forget that those in the “other” Maine are out working hard, day and night, to earn a living and provide for their families in a difficult economic climate. Any efforts the state can make in attracting new business to these railways before the completion of the grant work should be one of the highest priorities in the remaining time the administration has in power.

This award also shows that such a large investment comes as the result of no small effort. The fact that three competing rail lines have joined together with assistance from Maine DOT demonstrates the resourcefulness and capability of Maine business to work cooperatively in a private-public partnership to keep Maine and its businesses that rely on rail competitive with the rest of the country.

Lastly, this grant comes at a time when the trucking industry faces many new challenges. The “death” of long-haul trucking is underway. The median age of drivers is 49, and there is a growing shortage of drivers. Having worked in the trucking industry, I know firsthand that young people aren’t interested in truck driving, and if they are, they are interested in driving regional instead of cross-country, long-haul routes.

With national trends in the industry squeezing trucking capacity, Maine’s railways should continue to play an important role, if not more so, for future business growth. The prominence of intermodal transportation, which provides a hybrid road-rail alternative to long-haul trucking, already shows us where the industry is headed. As such, these investments come at the perfect time for shippers.

Personally, I appreciate all the efforts involved in the work to secure these grants. Without such work, we would continue to be 10 years behind the rest of the industry and national trends. I hope the LePage administration takes advantage of these investments to tout the opportunities that exist for businesses looking to work in Maine. Winning grants such as this sends a clear message: Maine is still competitive even in the rural corners of our proud state.

Charles Hastings of Portand has an MBA and a master’s degree in Global Policy from the University of Maine.