ROCKLAND — The Downeaster passenger train may begin extending its service to Rockland by May.

Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell met last week with Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. Quinn said Tuesday officials are still exploring the pilot program, and are checking the tracks between Brunswick and Rockland to see if they meet the needs of the equipment.

Between mid-December and mid-January, the Rail Authority will hold forums in communities where the trains will stop – Rockland, Newcastle, Wiscasset and Bath – to gather public feedback.

Possible schedules are still being developed, but the current proposal is for the service to run weekends May through October. The tentative schedule calls for a train to leave Boston at 5 p.m. Friday and reach Rockland at 10:30 p.m. The train would then return to Brunswick, where it would stay overnight.

The manager said the Rail Authority wants added lighting where passengers would disembark the train at the Union Street station. The railroad station in Rockland is owned by the Maine Department of Transportation.

On Saturdays and Sundays, a train would leave Boston at 9:45 a.m. and arrive in Rockland at 3:20 p.m., Quinn said. The train would then leave Rockland at 3:55 p.m. and arrive back in Boston at 9:25 p.m.

This schedule attempts to attract Boston-area residents who want to avoid heavy vehicle traffic on summer weekends.

“This looks good on paper,” Quinn said, but added that the public meetings are aimed at receiving responses from community members along the proposed new route. “This would be an enhancement to the coastal communities.”

City councilors have individually voiced support for the expansion of train service to Rockland.

The cost of the tickets has not been discussed yet. Quinn said that would wait until after the track inspection.

Seasonal excursion passenger service between Rockland and Brunswick ran for 12 years under the operation by Maine Eastern Railroad, but the service ended when the state ended its contract with Maine Eastern Railroad and awarded a contract to Central Maine & Quebec Railway.

The train station, bought by the Maine Department of Transportation from the city in 1996, was renovated and a restaurant added in 2006. DOT also owns the 57-mile branch from Brunswick to Rockland.

Regular commuter train service ended in Rockland in 1959. The train station was then used for decades as Rockland City Hall until the city moved to its current municipal building on Pleasant Street in 1996.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is a public transportation authority created in 1995 by the Maine Legislature to develop and provide passenger rail service between Maine and Boston and points within Maine.

Freight continues to run on the line, largely for the cement plant Dragon Products, which sends rail cars about five miles on the line from its Thomaston plant to its dock on Rockland’s South End waterfront, where a barge ships product to the Boston market.

The line has operated with freight traffic since May 1990, five years after Maine Central Railroad abandoned the spur.

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