I wanted to respond to Colin Woodard’s article “Expansion of passenger trains in Maine takes slow track” (Feb. 4).

In reference to expanding Amtrak Downeaster service to Auburn, the story reports: “… a 2011 Maine Department of Transportation study suggests ridership would be limited. … The study predicted 30,000 people would use it annually.”

Before the Downeaster started operations in 2001, some ridership projections were around 178,000 riders annually. However, the Downeaster carried more than 550,000 riders last year.

To say that a Lewiston/Auburn expansion would only carry an additional 30,000 riders may be a conservative estimate. (Although a 2006 study suggested that upward of 98,000 additional passengers would ride with the expansion to Brunswick.)

Estimating ridership depends on many factors, but the truth is, it’s all about how you sell the product. We here in Maine are lucky to have a great sales and management team in the form of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

The rail authority has built our fledgling service from around 250,000 passengers a year into one that carried more than 550,000 passengers in the past calendar year, and is expected to grow even more.

In 2009, the Downeaster was Amtrak’s 12th-busiest service, and it has added almost another 100,000 annual riders since then. The Downeaster now is more popular than Amtrak’s famous long-distance train, The Empire Builder.

I would not argue that passenger rail is on the “slow track” — rather, the contrary. We have people who are willing to ride, we have the leadership we need to grow and we have a model we need to succeed.

The only thing holding us back is a lack of capital investment. We should all encourage Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree, along with our local and state representatives, to support this great service and its continued expansion and success.

Eben Sweetser


Second Amendment meant to enable citizen resistance

In the 1700s, King George III sent soldiers to America and sometimes did not send money for their upkeep. So they forced citizens to provide free room and board under threat of arrest.

Once in a citizen’s house, the soldiers frequently stole and became physically abusive and there was nothing a citizen could do about it. So citizens began forming militia companies to protect each other from the government.

In April 1775, the “shot heard round the world” at Concord Bridge was fired by a militiaman. We didn’t have a U.S. Army until June 1775.

At the first naval battle at Machias in May 1775, militiamen captured HMS Margaretta. We didn’t have a U.S. Navy until October 1775.

By 1787, the Founding Fathers had been through a revolution and left copious notes making it clear that they thought all governments become abusive eventually, and they wanted us to be able to own every kind of weapon the army had in order to overthrow the government if it became necessary.

In 1787, the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution and sent it around to the 13 states. All 13 states complained it was nothing but a list of rights for the government. They wanted a list of rights for the citizens. So the Founding Fathers said, “Ratify the Constitution and we can amend it later with a bill of rights for citizens.”

They ratified the Constitution and sent in 12 proposed amendments. Ten were ratified immediately and became the “Bill of Rights” for citizens. That is why the Supreme Court has said twice in the last three years that the Second Amendment is a personal right, not a government right.

The militia mentioned is one meant to protect citizens from government abuse. States’ militias came much later.

Thomas O’Connor


Extraction of tar sands oil destroys species, livelihoods

On Sunday, hundreds of Mainers will travel to Washington, D.C., to take part in the largest climate rally in history and to tell President Obama to say “no” to tar sands oil.

Canada’s Boreal Forest was as close as you could get to paradise on Earth. Known as “North America’s rainforest,” its trees held 11 percent of the Earth’s carbon. It supported populations of moose, caribou, bears, wolves, lynx.

Four migratory bird flyways converge in the Boreal, and it was known as the “North American bird nursery.” First Nations citizens lived on the abundance of fish and game, just as their ancestors had for generations. The Boreal was one of Earth’s remaining natural treasures.

Tar sands oil comes from the destruction of the Boreal Forest. Hundreds of acres of trees, wetlands and animal habitat are bulldozed into oblivion every day. Huge amounts of water, gas and chemicals are injected into the soil to extract tar sand.

Paradise is turned into a moonscape with tailings ponds so large they can be seen from space. These ponds are so toxic that when flocks of ducks land on them, it results in instant death. The few ducks that may survive are doomed to slow, painful starvation.

First Nation elders report the effects on fish and game — moose with discolored livers and deformed fish.

How can we allow this to happen? How can we knowingly allow the wholesale destruction of bird and animal species? How can we allow the destruction of the home and livelihood of First Nations people? All in the service of Big Oil, Big Greed and Big Stupidity.

Linda Dumey


Most stations fail to fulfill obligation to inform public

Rush Limbaugh jokes about and scorns the “low-information” voter. Channels 6, 8 and 13 certainly did their part for voter ignorance on Feb. 5, when they failed to air the governor’s State of the State address.

From their newscast reports, it is apparent that the three channels had cameras and recording equipment in the legislative chamber, so noncoverage was seemingly deliberate. What has happened to civic responsibility in the media? Were the 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. “filler” programs more vital to voter information?

I thank Channel 10 for its efforts to keep the public informed by airing the governor’s State of the State address. Having seen and heard the speech enables me to separate truth from fiction and politically slanted news reports on the governor’s goals for the year.

Herbert Dobbins