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Business and Economy

Rail Authority Charts Future For Maine's Downeaster Service

Irwin Gratz
Maine Public
Patricia Quinn of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, leads a discussion in Portland Tuesday on the future of the service in Maine.

Approximately 100 people gathered in Portland Tuesday to discuss the future of passenger rail service.  They were attending an open house convened by Maine's passenger rail authority. Chief Patricia Quinn told her audience that an early goal is to make the Amtrak Downeaster "more appealing," to people traveling within southern Maine.

“We really want to transport more riders within Maine with the service we have, attract more work and business-related travelers," Quinn said, "and really improve our connectivity to the regional transit providers."

Quinn said the rail authority has already applied for funding that would add track and a platform at the Wells Station. When complete, that would enable the authority to run a morning round-trip from Brunswick to Wells, giving commuters working in Portland a chance to use the train as an alternative to driving into the city.

Credit Irwin Gratz / Maine Public
About 100 people gather in Portland Tuesday to discuss the future of the Downeaster passenger rail service in Maine.

After Quinn’s presentation, the audience was split into groups to discuss their priorities for improved service. Groups then presented those priorities, which included creating more connections between train stations and other transportation infrastructure, providing bike and pedestrian access to stations, electrifying the system to reduce noise and pollution, and pursuing more federal funding.

One topic of discussion included costs of the various service improvements, especially the big-ticket proposals, such as Lewiston-to-Portland and Westbrook-to-Portland commuter services.   

Rail Authority Chief Quinn said there are no "next steps" yet for either option. But she said public-private partnerships and federal funding might one day make those possible.