A NEW YORK CONNECTION was a goal that was set by TrainRiders since its inception in 1988.

A NEW YORK CONNECTION was a goal that was set by TrainRiders since its inception in 1988.

BRUNSWICK

Could you step on a train in Brunswick or Freeport and step off in New York City? Or Montreal? Or Chicago? TrainRiders Northeast, a self-described “passenger rail advocacy organization responsible for the arrival of the Downeaster Amtrak service between Portland and Boston,” believes the idea isn’t so far-fetched.

TrainRiders have renewed their call in a video on their website, which includes endorsements of the concept by Freeport USA Executive Director Kelly Edwards, Brunswick Downtown Association Executive Director Debora King and Brunswick Hotel & Tavern General Manager Rick Martin.

In an interview with The Times Record, TrainRiders Director Wayne Davis said he envisions an option where the Downeaster bypasses Boston and connects to the Lowell Junction in Andover, Mass., eventually connecting with Worcester and Springfield, Mass., before making stops in New Haven and Hartford, Conn., and on to New York City.

From there, Davis said, passengers can make their way to Chicago and other points.

Davis said TrainRiders’ engineer estimated it may cost around $122 million to make the project happen. In comparison, it cost $38 million to bring Portland-to- Boston service back to Maine nearly 13 years ago.

Davis also theorized that a passenger train traveling between Portland and Andover could be allowed to travel at speeds up to 110 mph.

Now, the Downeaster terminates at Boston’s North Station. Had the Downeaster been able to connect with South Station, the train could continue straight from Boston through parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut, before terminating in New York’s Penn Station.

Davis said a passenger rail connection between North and South stations is unlikely to happen. The existing line between the two stations is used to transfer equipment and goes through the MIT campus.

There have been also calls to pull passenger service in Maine in other directions, including connecting the Downeaster with Auburn or Augusta, as well as establishing regular service to Montreal.

Davis argued that it is easier to obtain federal money for interstate rail projects than it is, for example, to expand passenger service solely within the state.

Patricia Quinn is executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority that oversees the Downeaster.

“It’s not unrealistic,” Quinn said. “I think it’s a matter of doing some homework. Like any proposal — such as connecting to Montreal — you’d be looking at costs, ridership, in connecting to major population centers.”

Thus far, NNEPRA has been focused on improving the current Brunswick to Portland line, including track repair and maintenance, and a view toward new sidings in Falmouth and Yarmouth and improvements in Portland.

While TrainRiders is calling for the concept to be an expansion of Downeaster service, Quinn on Friday said: “It wouldn’t be the Downeaster. It would be a regional service connecting Maine to New York.”

Like other passenger rail expansions, Quinn said that “having a connection to New York City is worth looking at.”

Should all the pieces fall in place, Davis said that it would take “no more than two years” to get the tracks and other infrastructure ready for a Brunswick to New York trip.

“It’s simply improving an existing right-of-way,” Davis said. “Assuming that some magic comes out of Washington and the program is well-funded.”

Halfway through its running time, the TrainRiders’ video includes a presentation by Brunswick resident Jeff Reynolds, one of the more vocal, local proponents of the train shed, with lowflying aerial photography.

Supporters, including Reynolds, TrainRiders, and NNEPRA are embroiled in a fight against residents in the area — the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition — who are opposing construction of the $12 million, 60,000-square-foot train shed. Davis, however, said the latest call for a New York connection wasn’t necessarily a veiled swipe at Brunswick West.

A New York connection was a goal that was set by TrainRiders since its inception in 1988, and the train shed has no role in the discussion.

“All of this has been in the planning for a long time,” said Davis.

NNEPRA’s annual board of directors meeting will be held Oct. 28.


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: