The state transportation department has released a study of options for a new Portland train station. Currently, Amtrak’s Downeaster trains between Boston and Brunswick must get off the main line track to reach the existing Portland station, which adds 15 minutes to every run.
State transportation official Nate Moulton outlined the state’s findings on Monday to its passenger rail authority, known by the acronym NNEPRA.
“The big news here is that we’ve come to a point where the department is willing to pass the baton on to NNEPRA to work on whether we can get a facility located on the main line,” he said.
The state says it would be ideal to locate a new station along St. John Street in Portland between Congress Street and the entrance to the Veterans Memorial Bridge. But rail authority executive director Patricia Quinn said time is of the essence.
Quinn pointed out that potential sites have already been developed in recent years as a new garage for Maine Medical Center, new buildings for Mercy Hospital and a new veterans hospital.
NNEPRA also says it has begun looking at expanding Downeaster train service to Boston by late May.
Quinn told the authority board she has begun working on a plan to handle the anticipated return of more riders.
“We typically run a five round-trip schedule. We have been doing a four round-trip schedule. We’d like to think that, by summertime, we’d be back to the five round-trips again. And want to think ahead to what that schedule looks like. So, we’ve been working with Amtrak to identify some options,” she said.
The schedule Quinn outlined on Monday would have the fifth round trip fill gaps in a midmorning trip south to Boston and a 3 p.m. trip north to Maine. Quinn says the board will need to make a final decision by April if the fifth round trip is to begin around Memorial Day.