Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority and the Maine Department of Transportation are looking into the potential of relocating the Downeaster stop from the Portland Transportation Center. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Close to 60 years after the old Union Station was disassembled to make way for a strip mall, a nearby site is one of seven in the city being considered for a relocation of the Amtrak Downeaster station.

Since 2001, the Downeaster has been making daily trips from the Portland Transportation Center at Thompson’s Point to Boston, but Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail  Authority, said the organization is looking into a new place for the Downeaster to operate.

Because the Downeaster platform in Portland is located on a branch of the main line, it takes an additional 15 minutes for trains to let passengers on and off the train and turn around to continue its journey northbound or southbound. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The issue is time, Quinn told members of the City Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee Oct. 16. The Downeaster has to pull off the main line, the old Boston-Maine Rail Line, on to a branch line in order to pick up and drop off passengers and turn around. This adds 15 minutes to the schedule and would be avoided if a new Portland station was  located on the main line.

“We don’t have a proposal at this time, but we are looking at how we could relocate the station. The existing station is in need of repair. It’s 20 years old and transports over 1 million passengers a year,” Quinn said.

Nate Moulton, director of freight and passenger services for the Maine Department of Transportation, said a study to determine a new location should be completed this month, but there is no target date right now for a final report. Moulton said seven alternatives are being evaluated based on parking, ease of access, train schedule, safety, cost and impact on abutting properties.

“It is really important when we look at relocation of the station, it can be in an area to support growth for the future,” Quinn said.


City Manager Jon Jennings said city staff have discussed the possible relocation, but “we are not interested in taking a position on the relocation. We are most focused on making sure existing businesses and not harmed in any way.”

One location under consideration is near the former Union Station, where the old Boston- Maine line that operated from 1888 to the early 1960s comes to a “Y.” Quinn said that site would would allow for northbound and southbound train platforms.

Committee member Belinda Ray said that location also makes sense because it is close to Maine Medical Center and Mercy Hospital.

“The move into the area along the Fore River Parkway is the ideal solution. It makes the track linear and makes it so the train is not backing up and flipping around and it delivers people close to major employees in the area,” she said.

“It is not lost on me, we may need to have a station in a place where we used to have a station,” committee member Spencer Thibodeau said. “It is almost a return to where Union Station was.”

The possible relocation of the Downeaster stop in Portland is just one of the projects Quinn said the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is working on. It also is looking into the feasibility of extending passenger service to the Lewiston/Auburn area, building a connector between Westbrook and downtown Portland, adding 6 miles of double track in Wells to operate an additional train within Maine, and constructing a train platform behind the Hannaford Supermarket in Falmouth to be more convenient for travelers on the turnpike.

The Greater Portland Council of Governments and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority were set to team up to host a open house/question and answer session on these plans and plans for greater passenger rail service in greater Portland Tuesday, Oct. 22, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Merrill Auditorium rehearsal space.

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