Tuesday April 09, 2013 | 08:15 AM
Posted by Chris Hall

This afternoon the legislature's Transportation Committee is holding a hearing on LD 999, a bill that directs Maine's Department of Transportation to take a look at developing a new rail corridor between Portland and Auburn along the existing St. Lawrence & Atlantic rail lines.  It'll be interesting to see if lawmakers pass the bill and pursue the opportunity to bring more rail service to Maine.

Trains are expensive, and there's little state or federal money to rebuild rail lines.  In the past the conversation stopped there.

But in the past decade, with growing momemtum, private investors are stepping up to finance public infrastructure projects.  In some parts of the country these public private partnerships are making it possible to create jobs and transportation improvements that are otherwise impossible to fund.

There's a lot of excitement along the Portland-Auburn corridor for this new rail project.  You can easily imagine that Auburn is just a stop along a line that extends through New Hampshire and Vermont, all the way up to Montreal.  And a revived rail line can carry passengers and freight, opening up more economic possibilities.

Right now though all that the legislature is being asked to do is take a look - if private finance becomes available we'll find out, and if not, then nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

But LD 999 just might be the beginning of something big.

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Chris Hall is the CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber. He’s been working in Chambers of Commerce in Maine for over 20 years, and Notes from the Chamber will bring you his perspective and comment on what’s happening in the Portland region that’s most important to our economy today and tomorrow.

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