Rail Authority Seeks Public's Input On Plans To Expand Downeaster Service

Oct 21, 2019

Maine's passenger rail authority has ideas for easing travel congestion in southern Maine, and they want to explore those with the public at a meeting Tuesday. 

Studies show it would cost several hundred million dollars to create commuter services to Lewiston or Westbrook, for example. Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Patricia Quinn was asked where the money might come from.

"The first thing is we need to really determine what the projects are," Quinn says. "And, you know, there are no free solutions to the challenges that are facing the region in terms of, you know, how to move people around."

The authority has been exploring two new services within Maine, including Lewiston-to-Portland and Portland-to-Westbrook. It's also looking at adding a Downeaster stop in West Falmouth. 

Quinn says she wants to hear what the public thinks about those plans, and the existing, Brunswick-to-Boston Downeaster service.

"We will provide just a brief overview of some of the different projects that we have been working on, some ideas that we have about rail service in the region going forward, and then are really looking for people to, kind of, discuss these different options and give us their feedback of which ones they think are most important and which ones they think we should prioritize to move forward," Quinn says.

Quinn says the rail service wants to focus more attention on Maine, its home base. "We really want to see what we can do to have people perceive the Downeaster as more of a regional transportation provider, not just a way to get to Boston."

Quinn says the rail authority might explore partnerships with private business. She says there might also be federal funding available. But, she says, it all depends on which projects the authority chooses to pursue.

Tuesday's meeting is at the Merrill Rehearsal Hall behind Portland City Hall.  It begins at 4:30.