November 7, 2012

Letters to the Editor: Is rail service a good investment?

With the expansion of the Downeaster to Brunswick, and the overall success of the train, Amtrak and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority should look next into the feasibility of expanding service up to Rockland.

click image to enlarge

Nelson Soule of Cumberland and his wife, Margaret, ride the Amtrak Downeaster on Nov. 1, during its inaugural run to Freeport and Brunswick. Soule was the last ticket agent at the Freeport station before it closed. One reader questions the cost of the expansion, while another calls for a further expansion of rail service, up to Rockland.

2012 File Photo/Gabe Souza

With relatively little investment, Maine could easily and quickly expand its passenger rail service along the midcoast to increase tourism, mobility, road safety and private investment.

The Maine Eastern Railroad currently operates on the Rockland Branch (Brunswick to Rockland) with a scenic train during the summers. However, the communities along the line and Route 1 could undoubtedly benefit from regular rail service.

First and foremost, any mass transit that has the ability to take pressure off Route 1 should be considered.

Secondly, the Maine Department of Transportation rebuilt the line not that long ago, allowing the current scenic train to operate around 50 mph.

The costs of new platforms are relatively cheap and could be built quickly in the communities along the rail line. With upgraded signal systems and rail crossings, the train could be quickly and efficiently whisking people up the midcoast.

With high volumes of traffic up the midcoast, a rebuilt rail line between Brunswick and Rockland and Amtrak's resources, expanding daily Downeaster service to Rockland is a natural fit.

Eben Sweetser



After reading "Last leg of long journey for Downeaster" (Nov. 2), I was curious to see what the return on the investment would be.

According to the article, $38.3 million was spent to upgrade the tracks, and the anticpated increase in riders will be 36,000 annually.

A round-trip ticket from Portland to Brunswick is $22. So in a mere 48 years, the upgrades will be paid for. Of course, this doesn't take into account the annual cost to run the train.

There have to be more productive ways to spend $38.3 million, regardless of its origin.

Jim Anderson



Advent of autumn brings more traffic, sidewalk woes


Well, it's fall, and my concern over sidewalk clearing, sidewalk blocking, stop and yield signs, etc., is going up again.

The Portland Police Department does a wonderful job, considering the budget problems, but they can't be everywhere.

Stop signs in neighborhoods off the main streets are usually ignored.

People park their cars, boats and trailers on sidewalks, making it necessary for those of us who walk dogs to wander out into the street to get by.

Main crosswalks (Brighton and Beacon, for example) are as likely to get you run over as crossing mid-block.

And, of course, the situation will get a lot worse with the first snowfall.

Add all this to the general feeling that if your car can do 95 on the interstate, you might as well. It will get you there more quickly. Of course, it makes life inconvenient for those of us who follow speed limits, but what the heck.

Anyway, it's time for the ice creepers. And snow tires. And, above all, a lot of prayer that we will survive another winter in Portland.

Joe Kolko


Mom urges more awareness of premature birth's impact


As the hustle and bustle surrounding this year's election season begin to wind down, I hope people will join me on Nov. 17 to observe World Prematurity Day.

On this special day, families across the country will honor the memory of millions of babies worldwide who died this year and recognize those that struggle each day to survive, all because they were born too soon.

My daughter Hailey was born prematurely two years ago, and since her release from the hospital, I've been working with the March of Dimes to raise awareness about the serious problem of premature birth.

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