Proposed Casco Bay Trail. Contributed / Casco Bay Trail Alliance

Public opinion was mixed on Monday at a hearing on the proposed Casco Bay Trail between Portland and Auburn, with some advocating for maintaining the railroad corridor for trains and most favoring its reuse for recreation.

The Casco Bay Trail would replace the unused St. Lawrence and Atlantic Rail corridor between Portland and Auburn. The 72-mile trail would loop through Auburn, Brunswick, Cumberland, Durham, Falmouth, Freeport, Lewiston, Lisbon, New Gloucester, North Yarmouth, Portland, Pownal, Topsham and Yarmouth.

The Maine Department of Transportation Rail Use Advisory Council will make a recommendation early next year on the corridor’s use to the MDOT commissioner, who will submit it for legislative approval. The public hearing Monday in Cumberland is a step in that process, said Nate Howard, rail director at MDOT.

The advisory council is considering three options for the rail corridor: maintaining the rail line between Portland and Auburn, creating an interim recreation trail until the rail line can be rebuilt for trains, or building a rail line with a trail offset from it.

Paul Weiss, a former director at Maine Rail Transit Coalition, said he would highly encourage use of the rail line for restoration of passenger rail service. He emphasized the importance of promoting rail use as a way to combat climate change.

“To take one of the most important rail lines in the state of Maine and turn it into a trail is poor public policy,” Weiss said. “Every time you take a rail line out of service, it’s like you’re cutting the roots of a tree.”


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

Yarmouth resident Colin Durrant said he favors the “trail until rail” option. The trail would not only be a recreational resource for walkers and bicyclists but a transportation resource as well, he said.

“People would use it to get to Portland, Cumberland, Falmouth,” Durrant said. “It becomes not just a recreational trail, but something that’s an essential part of everyone’s day.”

Durrant said that a trail would take cars off the road and reduce emissions.

More than 40 residents attended the meeting, and at least 20 voiced their opinions on the project. While there was support for both trail until rail and rail line usage, more who spoke were in favor of a trail option.

Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane emphasized that the deciding on the rail corridor’s future involves a lengthy process. The costs of the project is still unknown, he said.

“No one knows what their share of a rail will be or what their share of a trail will be,” he said.

The advisory council will meet on Dec. 22 at Cumberland Town Hall to discuss the outcome of the public hearing.

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