With the price of gasoline on the rise and the money available to build and maintain highways growing scarce, the case for maximizing Maine’s use of freight rail is easy to make.

A revival of a five-mile section of the Mountain Division line between Westbrook and Windham would get trucks off local roads and give manufacturers an opportunity to find a lower-cost way to get products to market.

This has the potential to spur development at a time when it’s really needed, and it opens the door for future rail expansion. The state has enough money to start the project, thanks to a voter-approved bond issue that was passed last June.

But not everyone is happy. Recreational users who have built a trail along the rail bed for cycling and snowmobiling would be displaced, and they are fighting the restoration of the rail line.

They say it would disrupt their vision of a recreational link between Portland and Fryeburg, and are trying to get the state to put a halt on the project.

If they win, it would be a loss for all Mainers.

Even though a recreational trail would be an asset to the local community and a potential tourist attraction, the revival of freight — and maybe someday passenger rail — would be even more valuable.

It would be nice if the two uses could coexist, but the reality may be that there isn’t enough space. And a recreational trail can be built anywhere, but rail lines have to follow established rights-of-way if they are to be financially viable.

If the state has to choose, our transportation and economic needs should take priority over our recreational wants — it’s not even a close call.

State transportation officials should not lose sight of the long-term savings that would come from an East-West freight rail link and let this important project move forward.