Freeport and Brunswick Platforms Dedicated
Downeaster Expansion Project Expected to Complete by Fall of 2012
Videos courtesy of Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority
Monday, May 14, 2012, saw the communities of Freeport and Brunswick, Maine celebrating the dedication of newly-completed passenger rail platforms in their towns, in anticipation of the opening of the Portland-to-Brunswick extension of the Downeaster in the fall. Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Patricia Quinn, Director of the Maine Office of Tourism Carolann Ouellette, Main Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt, and many civic and business leaders joined in the festivities with remarks supporting and describing the benefits of this extended service. In both towns, the Downeaster expansion is expected to not only provide increased opportunity for visitors to enjoy these destinations but to do so without contributing to road congeston and pollution.
The return of passenger service to Portland and northern New England began as a grass-roots movement with the founding in 1989 of TrainRiders/Northeast. This non-profit volunteer organization was started by Wayne Davis, who possessed a strong vision of what that passenger service could be. On July 14, 1989, the Maine State Legislature enacted the Passenger Rail Service Act directing the Maine Department of Transportation to take all actions necessary to establish regularly scheduled passenger rail service within and outside the state of Maine. The Act further directed that the expenditure of funds to carry out this mandate would be spent first to restore passenger rail service between Portland, Maine and Boston, Mass. In 1995, the Maine Legislature further established the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) to develop and provide passenger rail service between Maine and Boston and points within Maine. Davis’s work came to fruition with the beginning of the Downeaster service in 2001, which is applauded for providing relief to traffic congestion, high gasoline prices, and parking scarcity. Maine’s Governor Angus King and Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as well as Amtrak officials and many of the train-riding public attended the Downeaster’s inauguration.
TrainRiders/Northeast today also provides volunteer train hosts on the Downeaster.
On February 26, 2010, the NNEPRA announced a $35 million grant, awarded as part of the High-Speed Intercity Rail Program and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), to restore service between Portland and Brunswick along 30 miles of track owned by Pan Am Railways. Work on the extension of the Downeaster began with its kickoff on August 2, 2010, in Brunswick, Maine. The extension has the distinction of being the first of the ARRA rail projects to come to fruition.
The Downeaster is financed primarily through funds made available by the Northeastern New England passenger Rail Authority.