A $1.25 million bond chugged its way through the Maine Legislature this month, with intentions of bringing back the Mountain Division train line that once ran from Portland to Fryeburg.

The bond originated from Gov. John Baldacci’s office as part of a $295 million bond package. It made a stop at the Transportation Committee last week and, now that it has Legislative approval, is moving full speed ahead toward its final destination – the ballot box.

In June 2008, Maine voters will accept or deny the bond package.

The 50-mile rail line was built in the late 1880s and carried passengers until 1959 and freight until 1984. The bond would fund upgrades of the rail tracks to support the return of potentially both passenger and freight service between Portland and Fryeburg.

State Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, a member of the Transportation Committee, made a proposal to the panel that $80,000 of the bond be used for an engineering study of the tracks.

“There are sections that need to be replaced, you can’t just go in and dust it off. It’s a huge project,” said state Rep. Gary Moore, R-Standish. Diamond’s proposal was approved.

After the engineering project, the money from the bond would go toward connecting the different working sections of the rail line. This would include negotiations with Massachusetts-based Pan Am Railways, formerly known as Guilford, which now owns an 11-mile stretch of the Mountain Division train line. Diamond said he does not anticipate much trouble.

“He seems very willing to negotiate a price,” Diamond said of David Fink, Pan Am president.

Moore said the rail line would be good for Maine, as he feels Maine’s growing transportation needs can’t be met by building more and more roads.

“It’s a fix, not a solution, and it’s not going to last,” he said in regard to Maine’s costly road network. “There’s no one in Maine that wants the landscape destroyed, botched up, with all these roads.”

Moore said the rail line would make both environmentalists and business people happy, as it provides cheaper, more fuel-efficient transportation than cars and trucks for both passengers and freight.

He also said the train would take a lot of traffic off roads, such as routes 302 and 113, including big trucks that can damage roads.


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