Measure would explore feasibility of extending passenger rail service northward
AUGUSTA – Thanks to a bill from Rep. Michelle Dunphy, D-Old Town, Bangor could be a step closer to bringing passenger rail back to the city.
“Expanding rail service represents a unique economic opportunity for our part of the state,” said Dunphy. “Passenger rail is fuel efficient, relieves pressure on our roads and provides an affordable alternative for commuters and visitors alike.”
The measure directs the Maine Department of Transportation to analyze the cost and feasibility of extending passenger rail service to Bangor. The department’s study would look at the condition of existing rail lines in the area, the possibility of accessing federal and other funding, the potential economic benefits and other aspects of expansion.
“By bringing passenger rail back to the Bangor area, we would enhance our local economy by improving connections between communities across Maine and beyond,” said Rep. Arthur “Archie” Verow, D-Brewer, a cosponsor of the measure and member of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee who has championed the expansion of passenger rail.
In November 2012, the Amtrak Downeaster expanded passenger rail service from Portland to Freeport and Brunswick. According to the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, the extended route had exceeded projected ridership by roughly 50 percent. The most common trips taken on the Downeaster are for vacation travel or to events, representing about half of passengers, followed by business travel, commuting and visiting friends and relatives.
Dunphy’s measure also has the support of members of the Bangor legislative delegation and other lawmakers in the region.
The bill, LD 1174, has been referred to the Committee on Transportation. It will be scheduled for a public hearing in the coming weeks.
Dunphy is serving her first term in the Maine House. She is a member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and represents Old Town and Penobscot Indian Island.
Verow is serving his second term in the Maine House. He represents most of Brewer.