Recovery Act funding will be used to upgrade 30 miles of track between Portland and Brunswick
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) $35 million in High-Speed Rail Grants to be used to rehabilitate 30 miles of track to extend Amtrak’s Downeaster rail service from Portland to Brunswick.
“This is welcome news to Mainers and visitors alike,” said Senators Snowe and Collins in a joint statement. “Since its inception, the Downeaster service has enjoyed steady ridership increases, providing tremendous benefits to Maine, including reducing road congestion, cleaner air, commuting options, and easier access to the state for tourists and economic development opportunities for businesses and communities. Extending this critical rail service to Brunswick will not only build upon the these successes but also create jobs and further boost tourism in the Midcoast region, giving the Brunswick area, which is coping with the closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station, a much-needed economic shot in the arm.”
Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority said, “The expansion of Downeaster service to Brunswick will have a lasting impact on Maine and on northern New England. In addition to making the Downeaster service more viable and efficient, it will create jobs, generate tourism, stimulate economic development and provide greater connectivity and mobility throughout the region. This is an exciting time for passenger rail in America, and we are honored to be included in the first round of this investment package.”
The funding is being distributed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which Senators Snowe and Collins worked to craft with a bipartisan group of senators last year. According to the NNEPRA, the expansion of Downeaster Service north to Freeport and Brunswick will further increase ridership by tens of thousands of individuals and take millions of passenger miles off Maine roads every year. Significantly, it enhances the efficiency of the service by reducing operating costs on a per passenger basis and maximizing the utility of existing equipment and labor pools. In addition to transportation benefits, expanding the Downeaster to Freeport and Brunswick will provide significant economic benefits to the region both in the near term and for years to come. It will support tourism, Maine’s largest industry, by creating a link between Boston and downtown Freeport, encouraging private development, potentially creating hundreds of jobs, and offers critical support to the redevelopment efforts that are ongoing at the Brunswick Naval Air Station, all the while providing connectivity to mid-coast Maine.