St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad tracks extend through Chandler Brook Preserve in Yarmouth. An advisory council is exploring potential uses for the inactive rail corridor. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

A state railroad advisory council is looking into three possible uses for the old St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail corridor between Portland and Auburn: rail, rail with trail, and trail until rail.

Rail means the tracks will be preserved for passenger or freight service. Rail with trail means a trail could be created at a safe distance from the rail line while keeping the line intact for future use. With trail until rail, the tracks would be removed and a trail built, with the potential for a new rail line to be constructed if needed.

“The idea is to get insight from local communities who abut the railroad and have an interest in its future and then walk through the different alternatives,” said Yarmouth Director of Economic Development Director Scott LaFlamme, a member of the state Department of Transportation’s railroad advisory council.

Other members of the 15-member council include its chairperson, Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane; North Yarmouth Town Manager Diane Barnes; and Falmouth Town Councilor Hope Cahan. Greater Portland Council of Governments, Live + Work in Maine, Casco Bay Trail Alliance and DOT are also represented.

“This is something that’s been on (Yarmouth’s) radar for the past several years, from trail advocates and rail advocates. It’s a good opportunity for all of us to trade notes and leverage the assets we have,” Laflamme said.

The railway has been inactive since 2015, when St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad sold it to the state because it was seldom used.


South Portland-based civil engineering consultant VHB is looking into conditions, cost estimates and economic benefits.

The council is expected to present its final report and recommendation to MaineDOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note in December. Its monthly meetings are open to the public and one large community meeting is planned for later this year. At its two meetings so far,  council members have been “revealing their knowledge base” and trying to get on the same page, Cahan said.

“We have the rail advocates that are nervous about losing rail capacity,” Shane said. “Many of us support the rail, myself included. If we can co-locate rail and trail, I’m 100% behind it. I’m not in favor of abandoning too much rail.”

Other members feel, however, that “the train has already left the station,” Shane said.

“But I feel that we have communities here that work really well together and if it works, it works; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We all want what’s best for our residents,” he said.

Shane, Cahan, and LaFlamme said at this point they are in favor of trying to safely include both rail and trail.

It’s too early in the process for specific estimates and how any costs could impact each town. The council feels confident that there’s enough federal money available for transportation and bicycle/pedestrian safety improvements to apply for when the time comes.

Cahan, who is vice chairperson of Greater Portland Transit’s Metro Bus Board of Directors as well as a public policy consultant for sustainability and transportation issues for a California county supervisor, said the cost of electric rail is “astronomical” right now. The cost to replace the tracks, signals, and software if needed would also be high, and Cahan said she looks forward to receiving more information from VHB later this year about specific cost estimates.

The council’s next meeting has not been scheduled, but will likely be held later this month. More information can be found at and navigating to “Portland to Auburn Rail Use Advisory Council.”

The rail corridor the advisory council is looking into is identified on this map as MDTT/SLA. Contributed / MaineDOT

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