AUGUSTA — With rail advocates saying Augusta is well-positioned for an eventual return of passenger train service, city councilors say they plan to approve a proposal to look into the idea.

Richard Rudolph, a director of the nonprofit rail advocacy organization Maine Rail Group, told city councilors Thursday that trains bringing passengers to and from Augusta could bring money and development to the city. That’s especially true of the area surrounding the city-owned former Statler mill on the city’s east side, which Rudolph suggested could become the station at the end of the line and a regional transportation hub.

Randolph told councilors that wherever rail lines go, transit-oriented development follows.

“So I suspect if in fact train service went over the bridge to east Augusta, onto the property the city owns, that would be a huge economic generator. And I think there is enough land over there you could certainly have a railroad station along with whatever else would be put in.”

Councilor Cecil Munson said the council will sponsor a resolution to look into passenger rail service for Augusta, and City Manager William Bridgeo said it will be ready Thursday for councilors to vote on.

Ward 2 Councilor Darek Grant asked if approving the resolution would prevent the city from considering other redevelopment proposals for the former Statler property. Bridgeo said it would not.


The resolution would not obligate the city to take action, or even apply for grant funding. But it would provide an official show of support for the return of passenger rail to the city, which is something Rudolph said is needed for the process to move forward.

The council resolution will suggest that a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant be sought to fund detailed planning.

Rudolph said he believes the proposal has a good chance of winning funding in part because it is multimodal, meaning it would involve several forms and uses of transportation serving the region. It would also operate from one location, the city-owned former Statler property, which city officials have renamed Kennebec Lockes and hope to see privately redeveloped. The property was acquired through nonpayment of taxes and cleared of most mill buildings in 2009.

A consultant hired to examine potential uses for the Kennebec Lockes site concluded that it could be redeveloped as a mixed use commercial, residential and retail site, with a passenger train station included.

Rudolph said the city could have a small train stop downtown and have the former Statler site be home to a larger station serving the region, meaning trains would run through downtown and cross the river on a trestle.

The resolution will require any proposal to bring trains through downtown include plans and funding to replace the approximately 200 “temporary” parking spaces built on top of the state-owned rail space that runs along Commercial and Water streets.


Bridgeo said the agreement between the city and Maine Department of Transportation that allowed the city to fill in the rail bed to increase parking downtown specifies the city would have to remove the gravel from the rails within 30 days of a request by state officials.

Bridgeo said replacing the 200 spaces could be accomplished by adding one or two decks to the public parking garage on Dickman Street, just above Commercial Street. Bridgeo said the structure designed to accommodate more parking.

“I was here when the parking facility was designed and bid out and it was specifically done to accommodate two more decks,” Bridgeo said. “The substructure is of sufficient heft to carry two more decks.”

The approximately 34 miles of inactive track between Augusta and Brunswick is owned by the state. Amtrak’s Downeaster line to Boston ends in Brunswick. The run, which previously stopped in Portland, was extended in 2012.

Rudolph said passenger rail came probably generated $50 million to $60 million in economic development in Brunswick, including a new hotel.

However, it has also generated complaints from some Brunswick residents concerned about a proposal to build a train layover facility where trains would be kept overnight. Neighbors fear that noise from idling trains might bother them.

Maine Rail Group officials, in a previous discussion with councilors, said the former Statler site, some parts of which are not near any residences, could possibly take the place of the proposed layover building.

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